Meta Lowers VR Age Restrictions For Quest Accounts, Leaves Child Safety To Parents

Shortly after its Meta Quest 3 VR headset reveal, the social-media giant has decided to lower its age restrictions for Meta Quest accounts, now allowing children between 10 and 12 years of age to create VR identities through new parent-controlled profiles.

Meta began lowering age restrictions for its virtual reality (VR) apps in April, when it invited people under 18 to use Horizon Worlds, the company's VR social-network app that will remain inaccessible to users under 13 years of age.

Despite a lack of definitive data on the psychological effects of VR environments on people -- especially children -- Meta claims these new age requirements will make it easier for parents to create and manage family accounts.

“We’ll require preteens to get their parent's approval to set up an account, which will give parents control over the apps their preteens download from our app store,” the company wrote in a blog post. “When parents share their preteen's age with us, we'll use this information to provide age-appropriate experiences across our app store.”

Parents will have the ability to control how long their preteen uses VR each day, oversight on what they're doing in VR, and app-blocking abilities.

Parent-managed Meta Horizon profiles will also be automatically set to private in order to cut down on predatory behavior.

In addition, preteen users will not be served ads.

“Parents will also be able to choose whether their child’s data is used to improve the experience,” added Meta. “They will be able to delete their child's account, including all of the data associated with it.”

User safety among younger users remains a hot-button issue for Meta. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission claimed that Meta “repeatedly violated its privacy promises” by profiting off of data collected from young users on Instagram and Horizon Worlds.

Soon after, a joint investigation by The Wall Street Journal, Stanford University and University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that Instagram's recommendation algorithms connected predators to a “vast” pedophile network.

By opening up largely untested VR experiences to younger users while depending on parental supervision to enforce preteen Quest use, critics are concerned that Meta is bypassing child safety to attract more users, further develop CEO Mark Zuckerberg's long-term metaverse vision, and compete with more popular metaverse platforms like Roblox and Fortnite.

“What we have seen is Meta, based solely on business imperatives, continually lowering the age of their virtual reality products and doing so without any evidence that these things are safe for young people,” Josh Golin, the executive director of Fairplay, a nonprofit children’s advocacy group, told The New York Times. “It's beyond the pale and clearly driven by the fact that they are trying to compete for a market, not driven by kids’ needs.”

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