Virtual worlds are booming. This summer, market research firm Strategy Analytics projected that the population of virtual worlds would increase from 186 million inhabitants to 640 million by 2015. And a big part of this giant leap is going to be from young people.

Apparently, children between five and nine will boost the market by 27percent while teens will bump it up by 21 per cent. And it’s already happening. ‘Club Penguin’ and ‘Habbo Hotel’ have record numbersofmembers, while the number of children playing online game ‘Moshi Monsters’ (above and left) has hit the10million mark, with one million new users signing up every month. Combining social networking, cute creatures and mini-games, it’s got children hooked, and its educational content and high levels on online safety has parents convinced too. Expect to see a lot more from these monsters.