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Meta is set to officially allow children as young as 10 years old to use its Meta Quest 2 and 3 VR headsets, but only with parental consent. In a recent blog post, the tech giant highlighted the availability of a wide range of engaging and educational apps, games, and more for young users. However, the impact of VR on children’s well-being is still a matter of debate. Nevertheless, this update coincides with the growing popularity of games like Roblox.
Under the new parent-managed Meta accounts, parents will have to approve their child’s access, and they will have control over the apps their preteens can use, as well as the ability to set time limits. To participate, users can find most of the necessary information in the “family center” section of their accounts.
Regarding data collection, Meta assures users that the information collected from 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds using Meta Quest products will be used to provide age-appropriate experiences. Advertisements are not served to this age group, and parents can decide whether their child’s data is used to enhance the overall experience. Additionally, parents have the option to delete their child’s account, along with all associated data.
It is hoped that Meta will honor these deletion requests, as some major tech companies have been criticized for retaining children’s data. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is closely monitoring such practices.
Ultimately, the decision of whether VR is suitable for their child lies with each parent. While independent studies on children’s use of modern headsets are scarce, Meta has acknowledged potential risks in a document, including the fact that VR helmets are heavier for small children and the possibility of eye strain and nausea. However, each section ends with Meta stating that they have found no evidence of harm. Although not implying dishonesty, Meta has not established a strong reputation for trustworthiness when it comes to addressing the negative effects of its products on users.
One of the most concerning aspects mentioned is the potential blurring of a child’s perception of reality, which Meta describes as “reality distinctions.” It is true that at a young age, children often struggle to differentiate between reality and fantasy. However, just a few years ago, children did not have access to fully immersive displays with photorealistic worlds to immerse themselves in.
If parents decide to allow their children to experience VR, it can be an enjoyable and exciting opportunity for everyone involved since VR has the potential to offer amazing experiences. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that even adults can experience negative effects from VR, both immediately and with prolonged exposure. Therefore, parents should engage in open conversations with their children and exercise caution regarding the duration and intensity of their VR engagement. When even Meta acknowledges the risks, it’s essential to heed their advice.