I'm a major proponent of the healing aspect of virtual worlds and even online games.
Yes, yes, I know, the internet is a cesspool and all these horrific scary things are on it waiting to rip you limb from limb and eat you. But come on... really, is that any different than physical reality? Like anything else you do you have to be mindful of what you are doing. You don't let your 7 year old go out into the world unsupervised, do you? So why would you let your 7 year old go out into the even wider world of the internet unsupervised? You might let your 9 year old walk to the bus stop or go to the corner market by his or herself, under certain very specific guidelines. Those guidelines can be translated to the net. Living in the world is a serious responsibility.
You wouldn't normally walk into to neighborhood that looks like this:
if you didn't know the area and were by yourself, would you?
Well then don't do it in a virtual world unless you know what you are doing.
On the other hand, this place:
This place seems a bit more developed, friendly, and has academic or corporate overtones, no? This is the NMC campus area.
The only thing to remember about virtual worlds is that there is a real person behind every avatar and it isn't a game. Don't do anything you wouldn't do normally, at least until you are well acquainted with the neighborhood.
I started out hanging around campuses, libraries, museums and upscale shopping neighborhoods when I was new to Second Life® just like I would in regular life if I was traveling.
Of course you can't tell a book by its cover... but some things are obvious; such as "me" in one of my more eclectic outfits.
And yes, there are places with lots of people around. More on that next time.