Need for Child-Proofing the Metaverse

3 min read

Education Trends: June 2, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Reports from a survey mentions that 72% parents familiar with the metaverse are worried about their children’s privacy and 66% have voiced concerns about their safety.

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Since the past couple of years, ever so often, my aunt has talked to me about how my cousin has gone from being an outgoing kid to a teenager who is completely addicted to Fortnite (an online video game). Now that I have looked into it, I have found that addiction is one of the smaller problems that children face in the virtual and mixed reality worlds.

The World Economic Forum has published an article stating its concerns on the safety and overall well being of young metaverse users. It is worried about the potential abuse that children might face in the metaverse.

Reports from one of Wunderman Thompson’s surveys mentions that 72 per cent parents familiar with the metaverse are worried about their children’s privacy in the metaverse and 66 per cent have voiced concerns about their safety.

Fortnite and Roblox are closest to the idea of the metaverse floating around. Roblox (online game platform) has up to 55 million daily average users while the number is 25 million for Fortnite. Reports suggest that almost 67 per cent of Roblox users are under the age of 16.

Even though Roblox claims that it proactively monitors for terrorist content, there have been rooms created for children that had re-creations of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting. Such rooms have been found and reported multiple times.

What are the main concerns surrounding metaverse?

1. Radicalisation, Racism & Abuse

  • Radicalisation of children is just one of the serious concerns surrounding the metaverse.
  • There have already been reports of racism and sexual abuse on various virtual reality platforms.
  • Nina Jane Patel, co-founder and vice president of metaverse research for Kabuni, shared that within 60 seconds of her joining a Meta virtual reality venue, multiple male avatars started closing in on her avatar, groped her and took photos.
  • Patel is developing child friendly metaverse experiences.
  • WEProtect Global Alliance mentions in its Global Threats Assessment report that 34 per cent respondents survey were asked to do something explicit online during their childhood.

2. Anonymity & Lack of Accountability

  • Absolute anonymity is the biggest problem in the virtual world.
  • A BBC researcher posed as a 13 year old girl in VRChat, a virtual platform.
  • She was shown obscene material and she had to deal with racist insults as well as threats from adult men.
  • There have also been reports of children being led to virtual strip clubs in Roblox.
  • A Facebook employee who was using Facebook’s Oculus Quest VR headset to play Rec Room was subjected to racial slurs for several minutes. Due to the anonymity of the other player, they could not identify or report the individual.

Although Meta has announced updates for Horizon World, its virtual reality space, with respect to the personal boundary of users, there is still a long way to go to make these platforms safe, especially for children.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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