(WJW) – It’s no secret that technology is advancing and now kids have access more than ever to the emerging “metaverse.”
A new report is outlining some hidden dangers in virtual reality and how they can pose a threat to children.
You might not know what the metaverse is, but your kids probably do. It’s a rapidly-expanding digital world where anyone over 13 can create an account and access the metaverse through virtual reality headsets.
In these simulated spaces where people can meet, interact and visit unknown places, how can parents protect their children from the dangers that may be hiding in virtual reality?
Jeff Haynes is with the technology watchdog group Common Sense Media, who released a report outlining what they believe are a number of potential harms facing kids and teenagers in the metaverse.
The first is sexually explicit content and abusive behavior.
“Whether it’s virtual strip clubs, nudity, videos of violence, basically anything goes depending on the space that you happen to be in,” said Haynes.
That’s exactly what happened to a woman in the UK, who claimed she was sexually assaulted in a virtual game. Common Sense Media also listed potential psychological risks like addiction and disassociation from reality.
“If you don’t happen to have guardian set ups so you have definable space, you could hit something, hit somebody, hit a pet, damage things, injure yourself,” Haynes said.
The organization said, when it comes to VR and kids, parents should be the first line of defense. Make sure your kids know how to report bad behavior.
Moderation is key and make sure to know what apps they are using. And, of course, you could always do it with them.
It’s something Boss VR Arena owner Brad Copley thinks parents need to educate themselves.
“For us, we wanted to allow you to experience with your child in a safe, fun environment,” Copley said.
One of only 10 of it’s kind in the country, Zero Latency Cleveland provides eight fully immersive experiences that parents can pick.
“We go all the way from rated G where you are solving puzzles and trying to save the environment all the way to our PG 13 games which are more player-on-player, shooting games,” Copley said.
Copley said they set an age requirement of at least 12 to play.
“We have an online waiver for parents as well as one they have to do here,” he said.
Studies show kids who have parents more involved in their lives are more likely to avoid dangerous situations both in real life and in virtual reality.