Yeah, this should be fine. Can’t see any problems at all.
Today, Meta has announced that it’s lowering the age requirements for Meta Quest accounts, with children aged between 10 and 12 now able to create their own VR identity via ‘parent-managed’ profiles.
As explained by Meta:
“With new parent-managed Meta accounts, we’re making it easier for parents to create and manage their family’s accounts on one device. We’ll require preteens to get their parent’s approval to set up an account, which will give parents control over the apps their preteens download from our app store. When parents share their preteen’s age with us, we’ll use this information to provide age-appropriate experiences across our app store. For example, we’ll only recommend age-appropriate apps.”
Young users will not be served ads, while parents will also be able to manage how long they can use VR for every day. Parents will also be able to monitor what their kids are up to in VR, via casting to a phone or TV set, while pre-teen Horizon profiles will be automatically set to private to limit predatory behavior.
“We’re building this with our Responsible Innovation Principles and our commitment to building safe, positive experiences for young people at the forefront. For example, we provide parents with information to decide whether Meta Quest 2 and 3 are right for their child, and how to make their experience in-headset comfortable and safe. We’ll also introduce additional tools and resources so preteens have an age-appropriate experience in VR that parents can easily manage.”
So should be fine, Meta’s got it all in hand, all covered, nothing to be concerned about.
Oh, except that we don’t have definitive data on the potential psychological and physiological impacts of prolonged VR use, nor do we have a clear understanding of the impacts of social interactions in a more immersive digital environment.
I mean, the impacts of such on social media platforms as they currently exist are pretty significant, and you can only imagine that this will be even worse in a wholly immersive, enclosed digital space.
But sure, let kids spend hours a day in VR. What could go wrong?
And while Meta is building in management tools to help parents mitigate potential risks, the reality is that most parents don’t have the time to be monitoring their child’s online activities 24/7. That could be a vector for increased harm, and you can bet that in a few years time, there’ll be a raft of new psychological papers exploring the impact of VR exposure on kids.
But for Meta, this could be a valuable market segment. Meta’s building its metaverse not for the current user cohort, but for the next generation of web users, the kids who are already engaging in metaverse-like spaces in gaming worlds, like Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox. It’s that next generation that will be more fully aligned to the metaverse as a connective tool - and as such, getting them into VR early could be a winner for Meta, in merging these experiences into common interactive behavior.
It makes sense why Meta wants this. But it feels like we’ve learned nothing from the current social media age.
Over time, more and more studies have shown that social media interaction can have harmful impacts for youngsters, and can be a net negative for development, mental health, and more. Really, we shouldn’t allow young kids to be using social media apps, with the exposure risk alone posing significant dangers, while similar concerns have also been raised about VR, and how predators can use the virtual environment, which is far more immersive and all-consuming, to fulfil their ill intent.
Heck, even Meta itself warns of the dangers here:
Expect this warning to disappear sometime soon.
But sure, let kids sign-up.
Should be fine.