Concerns for children safety necessitate a discussion for VR future.
As Meta has begun promoting the Metaverse, not everything is going as hoped, with many calling into question general safety concerns. The conversation has now turned towards the potential impact this technology can have on children, and the steps Meta have taken to ensure child safety on their platforms.
A major concern for Meta right now comes directly from the Information Commissioners’ Office, or ICO for short; troublesome reports have emerged in regards to Meta’s compliance with the Children’s Code.
Developed by Beeban Kidron, the Children’s Code was created to ensure the content accessed by children under the age of 18 is appropriate and not harmful to the demographic. It also acts as a guide to services online, and aims to prevent the misuse of children’s data on the devices they use. However, it does not regulate the content posted online.
Beeban Kidron noted there aren’t enough checks in place to prevent children from using the services offered by Facebook and Oculus, observing it only takes the click of a button in a box to confirm that they are over 13 years of age.
These issues have arisen as an independent group has discovered a campaign of harassment in third-party VR chat rooms, observing multiple forms of bullying and abuse. Different experts have also noted VR headsets are flawed in terms of the amount of parental controls available, which are now being put to the test. And, as stated above, although Facebook and Oculus users must be 13 years old to use the services, no checks are currently being put in place.
These concerns are valid, as it calls into question the methods in which this technology develops. As such, this may lead into the designs of future products revolving around safety and security for the users, instead of being a feature considered towards the end of the production cycle. Although these matters may indicate a present lack of care towards content regulations, larger hurdles can appear in the future. Meta has responded to these concerns, stressing again how underage users cannot use their services. Blatantly, they did not discuss the worries regarding the ease of access to their content.
Despite the pressing concerns, Meta appears to be set on developing the Metaverse for the time being. If these discussions with the ICO are to have any impact, it could lead to a more safe environment for younger users, and limit the harmful exposure they may experience. But, whether or not this will happen remains to be seen.
Finally, for our previous #SocialShort, click here.