The corporate parent of Facebook and Instagram plans to open a digital gateway for kids as young as 10 to enter virtual reality via Meta Quest headsets, despite growing concerns about kids spending too much time online. social.
Meta Platforms, which oversees a social media empire created by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, has revealed it will lower the minimum age for a Quest account. from 13 to 10 years old in a Friday blog post . The Menlo Park, California-based company framed the change coming later this year as a familiar way for more people to explore the artificial realms Zuckerberg touts as the "metaverse."
The move to entice tweens into a virtual world filled with digital avatars and other tech fabrications comes just weeks after the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to Call on Tech Companies and Lawmakers to take steps to protect children from the potentially harmful mental and emotional effects of excessive exposure. to social networks
Both Facebook and Instagram have been criticized for years for using tactics that hook children to social media at an early age, undermining their real-life relationships with friends and family and exposing them to the risk of online bullying and abuse from peers. sexual predators.
In his blog post, Meta said that parents will retain control over their children's accounts for the Quest 2 and Quest 3 headsets and promised that access for tweens will be limited to "age-appropriate" apps that implement virtual reality. or VR. Tweens won't be able to have a Quest account without explicit parental approval and all apps used on the platform will also require parental consent, according to the company, which recommends that the youngest age group be limited to two hours. . daily time limit on the headset.
Other security measures will include setting all tween accounts to a private setting by default and a commitment not to show them any ads that generate the bulk of Meta's revenue.
“We are building this with our Principles of Responsible Innovation and our commitment to creating safe and positive experiences for youth at the forefront,” Meta wrote in the blog post.
the company too provides parents with comprehensive guidance when considering whether to allow a 10-12 year old to use a virtual reality headset. A section of the guide cites “a growing body of research examining the positive effects of VR in medical/clinical contexts, including interventions to support the development of social competence skills, to divert attention from painful or anxiety-provoking medical procedures , and to support skill development in specialized populations”, such as children with cerebral palsy.
By expanding Quest's potential audience, Zuckerberg appears to be taking another significant step toward his goal of sculpting the metaverse into a sphere that will eventually be as popular as Facebook and Instagram have been since the company started out of a college dorm room almost. 20 years ago.
Until now, the metaverse has mostly been a digital ghost town, despite the fact that millions of Quest headsets have been sold. The Meta division that oversees Quest headsets and the metaverse lost $13.7 billion last year and generated $2.2 billion in revenue.
In addition, Meta is facing some formidable new competition from Apple, which last week introduced a headset called Vision Pro which is also capable of taking users into virtual environments. The high-end headset, priced at $3500, received enthusiastic responses in carefully staged demos but it won't be in stores until early next year.
Meta has already announced that the next Quest headset will cost $500 as a way to get more people to buy it before the Vision Pro launches and is now taking steps to appeal to tweens.