Facebook is taking new steps to ensure the safety of children while they are using virtual reality headsets. The company’s parent company, Meta, plans to roll out parental supervision tools for its Oculus headset. This comes as concerns mount over whether kids are safe while exploring the so-called “metaverse.” Facebook also is launching new child-safety tools on Instagram.
Facebook says its Oculus headset is designed for people over the age of 13, but NPR and other outlets have reported that younger children appear to be using VR apps, including ones meant for adults, such as Meta’s own Horizon Worlds. That’s raised concerns that kids could become targets for predators and be exposed to inappropriate content.
Child safety advocates have praised Facebook’s move to launch parental supervision tools for its VR headset, but some say more needs to be done to protect kids who are using VR technology.
When asked to respond to criticism, Meta replies that they are adding additional safety measures for their VR headset and Facebook’s other child-safety technologies on Instagram.
Starting in April, Facebook will allow parents to set up an account for their child on the Facebook app. They will then be able to monitor their child’s activity and see which apps they are using. Facebook says it will also provide resources for parents to help them understand what their children are doing in virtual reality.
Parents will be able to access a dashboard that allows them to view which VR apps have been downloaded by their child, get notifications when they make purchases, track how much time the headset is being used, and see a list of friends.
The company is also building a “Family Center” portal that links together parental supervision solutions and educational resources across all of its platforms, including Instagram. It will contain video lessons on how to utilize the new technologies as well as ideas for parent-child conversations about online usage.
The company is also launching new safety features on Instagram. These include a filter that allows parents to control who can send direct messages to their children, as well as a tool that lets kids report inappropriate comments.
We’ll have to wait and see the changes Facebook makes to their parental supervision tools, but it’s clear that they are taking the concerns of parents and child-safety advocates seriously. Until then, be sure to talk to your kids about online safety before letting them use VR apps.