In late October 2021, Facebook became ‘Meta’ as an attempt to promote the ‘metaverse’. But, what is the metaverse, and is the metaverse safe for children? Through this article, we will attempt to answer these questions. 

What is the Metaverse?

Is the Metaverse Safe For Children  with child on a digital surf board

According to an article published by Wired, talking about the metaverse is quite like talking about the internet back in the 1970s – the possibility of the metaverse is real, but we are not clear about its exact shape. 

However, in general, the metaverse will combine several technologies in an attempt to make the web more enticing and inviting. These technologies will include:

  • Augmented reality (such as Google Glasses)
  • Digital economy (such as those Minecraft coins that your kids are constantly bugging you for)
  • Live video chats (such as Facetime and Zoom)
  • Virtual reality (such as the Oculus Rift)

When people mention the metaverse, it is actually that last pointer (virtual reality) that they are referring to. 

Is the Metaverse Safe for kids?

A lot of adults feel that the metaverse is unsuitable for children since it involves loud noises, interacting with strangers, and even giving away personal information. 

Even if you do feel that your kid is old and mature enough to be a part of the metaverse, there are several factors or concerns that you need to focus on before allowing your child to use this virtual-real world:

  1. Will VR Ruin My Child’s Vision?

Parents believe that the nearness of the screen will affect their children’s eyes. 

Fortunately, VR actually simulates seeing things from afar, which means that it is actually better for the eyes compared to most other screens. In other words, we see things in VR more like we would see things in our outside surroundings than the way we do when using a tablet or even reading a book. 

Having said that, spending a lot of time watching any kind of screen can lead to dry eyes and other vision problems, which is why it is best to limit the playing time to 15-20 minutes.

Yet another vision-related concern is that the distance between a child’s eye pupils is not as large as that of an adult’s pupils. So, if your child’s VR headset cannot adjust to this smaller size, the pictures might come across as blurry, leading to dizziness and headaches. Since most headsets fail to make this adjustment, they are marketed as only being suitable for users who are at least 13 years old. 

Meeting Strangers Online:

A picture with the word danger and questioning Is the Metaverse Safe For Children?

The primary objective of the metaverse is to provide virtual-real platforms that mimic real-life interactions. Unfortunately, the very possibility of interacting with strangers, increases the chances of sexual assaults and predatory. 

There have been reports of virtual groping in the metaverse. Experts also warn that sexual predators are often the first ones to find their way into such unregulated online platforms and benefit from the lack of safeguards during this preliminary period. 

Also, the metaverse allows people to create their custom worlds – a feature that is almost certainly going to be used by ill-intentioned people to show porn. Also, owing to the immersive nature of the VR, sexual harassment will feel even more impactful and real than other forms of online harassment. 

As is the case with many live online interactions, there are no records and, therefore, it is impossible to go back and figure out the details of your child’s interactions or what happened to them. 

What Young People Think:

Despite claims from investors that young people will be driving the metaverse boom, only 37% of Gen Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) feel that the metaverse is going to be the next big thing. For virtual-world components, the response from the millennial population (aged between 25 and 40) was more encouraging – 48% of them believe in the potential of the metaverse. 

Also, 37% of the Gen Z population believes that it is worth spending money to own digital items in the universe. Once again, the millennial population was more receptive, with 51% open to the idea of spending money in the metaverse. 

Final Word – A Message to Parents:

The metaverse, at least for the time being, does not have the kind of safety options and parental controls that were taken for granted in previous child-friendly games. For instance, it is not possible to turn the chat off and keep playing online since the entire point of the metaverse is to encourage online interaction. 

For this reason, parents should see the metaverse as chat rooms and restrict their children’s access accordingly.