Meta gives parents control of teens’ metaverse

The news: Meta is rolling out parental supervision features for Quest VR headsets and Instagram, potentially opening the door to wider metaverse and social adoption from younger users, per Engadget.

The parental controls feature comes at a time when consumers and legislators are seeking greater protection for children in social media.

How it works: Meta’s parental supervision process needs to be initiated on a teen's account (the minimum age to have a Facebook account is 13).

  • A Parent Dashboard smartphone app allows parents and guardians to block apps (including web browsers), see a list of apps on the teen's account, and view their friends list. 
  • A teen can ask to buy an age-restricted app, then their parents can approve or deny the request. Parents can also view headset screen time, receive alerts when an app is purchased, much like how parental controls on smartphones and gaming consoles operate.
  • Meta is also launching a parent education hub, which includes information about the VR supervision options. The company says it worked with industry experts, teens, parents, and policymakers on these controls.

What’s the catch: While Meta is providing parental and guardian support to headsets and Instagram accounts, the new features and regulations can’t control other participants in a massive multiplayer open network. 

  • Meta’s Horizon Worlds and similar VR platforms are like any public space. Meta cannot control users’ language or any type of harassment, which could be an issue with minors.
  • Recent reports of sexual harassment in the metaverse expose an underlying problem with most multiplayer VR spaces and games—platform owners can’t regulate user behavior.
  • Events in VR are not recorded and are happening in real time, which makes it difficult to pinpoint or ban offenders.
  • “VR is a whole other world of complexity,” Titania Jordan told The New York Times. Jordan is the chief parent officer at Bark, an AI company that monitors children’s devices for safety. “Just the ability to pinpoint somebody who is a bad actor and block them indefinitely or have ramifications so they can’t just get back on, those are still being developed.”

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