Meta will soon officially allow users as young as 10 to use its Meta Quest 2 and 3 VR headsets – if their parents say it’s okay, anyway. In a blog postthe tech giant says there’s a “huge range of engaging and educational apps, games and more” for kids, though the jury is still out on whether or not that’s healthy. Just in time for Roblox!
The new parent-managed Meta accounts will require mom or dad’s approval to get started, and parents will be able to control which apps tweens use and set time limits. If you wish to participate, most of the information you will need will be available in the “family center” part of your account.
Regarding data collection, the company says, “We will use the information we collect from children ages 10, 11, and 12 through our Meta Quest products to provide an age-appropriate experience. We do not advertise to this age group. Parents will also be able to choose whether their child’s data is used to improve the experience, and they will be able to delete their child’s account, including all data associated with it.
Hopefully they actually delete it when you ask, unlike some big tech companies that back up children’s data. The FTC is watching.
It’s up to each parent to decide if virtual reality is appropriate for their child, of course. And when I say the jury is out, it’s really that there just aren’t enough independent studies of children using modern helmets.
To his credit, Meta provide a document mentioning many potential dangers of virtual reality, from the fact that headsets are much heavier for a small child than an adult to the risk of eye strain and nausea. All sections, however, end with Meta saying something like “but we found no evidence that this is harmful”. I’m not saying they’re lying here, but the company hasn’t exactly built a reputation for reliability when it comes to how its products negatively affect people.
Perhaps the scariest thing mentioned is the potential erosion or retardation of a child’s “reality distinctions.” What a phrase! Of course, at a young age, reality and fantasy tend to merge. But even five or 10 years ago, kids didn’t have full-immersion screens with photorealistic worlds to get lost in.
If you decide to let your child discover virtual reality, cool. It could be a really fun experience for everyone involved because VR can be awesome. But even adults can experience negative effects almost immediately, not to mention prolonged exposure. Talk to your child and pay attention to how long and seriously they use this technology. When even Meta tells you there are risks, listen.