In a recent blog post, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, announced its decision to officially permit children as young as 10 years old to use its Meta Quest 2 and 3 virtual reality (VR) headsets. However, this allowance comes with the condition that parents give their approval. While Meta emphasizes the availability of engaging and educational apps andgames for kids, concerns regarding the health effects of VR on young users remain.
The introduction of parent-managed Meta accounts aims to give parents control over their children’s VR experiences. Parents will have the authority to manage which apps preteens can access and set time limits for their usage. To access this feature, parents can navigate to the “family center” section of their Meta accounts.
Regarding data collection, Meta asserts that any information gathered from 10 to 12-year-olds using Meta Quest products will be used to deliver age-appropriate experiences. Notably, Meta states that it does not serve ads to this age group. Parents will have the option to determine whether their child’s data contributes to enhancing the overall VR experience. Furthermore, parents will be able to delete their child’s account, including all associated data.
It is crucial for parents to carefully consider whether VR is appropriate for their children. While Meta acknowledges potential hazards, such as the weight of VR headsets for small children, eye strain, and nausea, the company maintains that it has found no evidence of harm. However, some critics have raised concerns about the erosion of a child’s ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, especially with the immersive nature of modern VR experiences.
Independent studies on the effects of VR specifically on children are limited, making it challenging to reach definitive conclusions. Meta does provide a document outlining potential risks associated with VR use, but its reputation for addressing negative impacts of its products is under scrutiny.
While allowing children to experience VR can offer unique and enjoyable experiences, it is important for parents to remain vigilant. Negative effects can manifest even in adults, both immediately and with prolonged exposure. Conversations between parents and their children about responsible and limited usage of this technology are encouraged, particularly when Meta itself acknowledges the presence of risks.
As the VR industry continues to evolve, it is crucial for companies like Meta to prioritize user safety and well-being. Efforts to conduct comprehensive, independent studies on the impact of VR on children will be vital in guiding future decisions and ensuring a more informed approach to VR usage among young users.