WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Instant Message Virtual Universe, or IMVU, is a new game that allows users to create an avatar and message other players. However, local experts are warning of its dangers.

IMVU allows users to create a profile and a virtual avatar, which according to experts from the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County, is risky for users of all ages.

“I wouldn’t really recommend this even for 18 year old’s. I think that it’s a dangerous app for anyone to use, and there’s no real way to track the age group,” urged Victim’s Assistance Center of Jefferson County MDT Facilitator Cassidy Crino. “So you don’t know who you’re chatting with and you’re making an avatar. You also don’t know what they look like and that can be really dangerous.”

The site is noted as one of the top “avatar based social experiences,” however Crino noted that this ultimately is allowing children to talk with strangers that could be hiding behind an avatar for dangerous reason.

“When kids have access to apps that allow them to talk with strangers in a non-secure area, you don’t know their intention. So if you don’t know somebody, you don’t know why they’re talking with you, you don’t know what their end goal is. And honestly, if an adult is going on one of these [apps] to hide their identity, they probably don’t have a great intention,” she expressed.

Apps such as IMVU also can be difficult to track users, creating further complications in child abuse or harassment cases.

Crino added that this can make it difficult for law enforcement as well.

“Sometimes in an investigation, they have a hard time figuring out who these people are and they’re hiding behind an IP address or a fake account. And that makes it difficult to get that child justice. However, that might look for them,” she concluded.

To check and research apps and platforms such as IMVU, the VAC recommends parents and guardians to utilize the website “Smart Social.” This site provides tips and safety information for some of the common social media channels such as Instagram, Fortnite, TikTok and Snapchat.

Visit the Victim’s Assistance Center of Jefferson County’s website for more on internet safety and what donations the organization is currently accepting.