Meta will soon officially allow users as young as 10 to use the Meta Quest 2 and 3 VR headsets – if their parents say it’s okay, that is. In a blog post, the tech giant says there’s “a wide variety of engaging and educational apps, games and more” for the kids, even though the jury is still out on whether it’s healthy or not. Just in time for Roblox!
The new parent-managed Meta accounts require mom or dad’s approval to begin with, and parents can control which apps teens use and set time limits. If you want to participate, most of the information you need is available in the “family center” part of your account.
Regarding data collection, the company says, “We will use information we collect about 10, 11 and 12 year olds through our Meta Quest products to provide an age-appropriate experience. We do not show ads to this age group. Parents can also choose whether their child’s data will be used to improve the experience, and they can delete their child’s account and all associated data.”
Hopefully they will actually delete it if you ask, unlike some big tech companies that keep kids’ data. The FTC is watching.
Of course, it’s up to each parent to decide if VR is right for their child. And when I say the jury is out, it’s really true that there just aren’t enough independent studies of kids using modern headsets.
To his credit, Meta produces a document citing many of the potential dangers of VR, from the fact that the helmets are much heavier for a small child than for an adult to the possibility of eye strain and nausea. However, all sections end with Meta saying something along the lines of “but we found no evidence that this is harmful.” I’m not saying they’re untruthful here, but the company hasn’t exactly built a reputation for reliability when it comes to the negative impact of its products on people.
Perhaps the scariest thing mentioned is the potential erosion or slowing down of a child’s “reality discrimination.” What a sentence! Of course, reality and fantasy often get mixed up at a young age. But even five or ten years ago, kids didn’t have fully immersive displays of photorealistic worlds to get lost in.
If you decide to let your kid experience VR, cool. Could be a really fun experience for everyone involved because VR can be awesome. But even adults can have negative effects almost immediately, let alone with prolonged exposure. Talk to your child and be careful about how long and how seriously they take this technology. If even Meta tells you there are risks, listen up.