Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

R. L. Liora Salter


Virtual Worlds, Imagination, Regulation, Technology, Children


This dissertation deals with the limits of regulation through the analysis of virtual and intangible harm and the capacity of regulation to prevent or at least reduce such harm. The case study at hand is the potential harm to childrens imaginative development in virtual worlds. A comparison is drawn from the regulation of online advertising to children in Canada and the US. Based on a review of the literature in chapter 1, it is suggested that there are serious and long-term consequences to an underdeveloped imagination, including pathological phenomenon and lack of imaginative ability. As with other harms to children, the situation seems to call for regulation. However, the harm posed to children's imagination by virtual worlds use is challenging in two ways: it is virtual and intangible. Chapter 2 deals with regulation as a field to provide the framework to deal with the said harm. Due to its virtual character, regulation in its traditional form, reviewed in chapter 3, is unsuitable to address this harm. Technology regulation reviewed in chapter 4 is unsuitable to address this harm as it is intangible. As this harm involves speech thus dealing with constitutional implications, the 5 chapter reviews this aspect in Canada and the USA. The 6 chapter then argues that there are similar characteristics between the presumed harm to childrens imagination and the harm resulting from marketing to children online. In fact, the literature argues that they are two sides of the same coin. Chapter 6 examines the regulation of online marketing to children in Canada and United States and concludes that the experience of regulating advertising to children is mainly unhelpful because it does not address virtual and intangible risks in an efficient manner. Chapter 7 summarizes the findings of the previous chapters and analyzes the limits of regulation in light of the case study at hand. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of parental regulation, followed by a suggested future research.


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