Facebook and Instagram owner Meta plans to lower the recommended age from 13 to 10 to use its Quest headset, the company said in a statement. blog post on Friday, a move that could spark new privacy and security concerns with parents and global watchdogs.
The company is discussing its plans with regulators, two people with knowledge of Meta’s talks said, and is looking to address immediate concerns over whether young children using the headset could be subject to greater risk. is trying
Meta said that setting up an account would require parental approval of a pre-teen, and that young users would only see apps and content rated for the pre-teen age group. The Quest headset allows people to enter the so-called Metaverse, an immersive online world, and play virtual reality games and perform other tasks.
Over the past year, Meta has gradually eased age restrictions for its virtual reality apps to reach a younger audience. In April, the company said it would allow people under 18 to use its virtual reality-based social network Horizon Worlds, which has many young users. the horizon will be the world stay banned For users 13 and older, as previously reported by The Verge.
In its blog post, Meta said it is making age changes to the Quest headset “to give families even more ways to use and enjoy Meta Quest.” It states that it is committed to “creating safe, positive experiences for young people”.
The use of technology by teenagers and children has long been a controversial issue. Last month, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a public warning about the risks of social media to young people, calling on children and adolescents to fully understand the potential harm to their mental health and well-being. Emphasis was asked. , She also called on policy makers to limit youth’s access to social media to help protect children and their privacy.
Virtual reality is a relatively new field and its risks are still emerging. But harassment, assault, bullying and hate speech are already prevalent in virtual reality games, which are part of the metaverse, and there are few mechanisms to report abuse, researchers have said.
As concerns have grown, regulators have taken action. The Federal Trade Commission recently ramped up its crackdown on tech companies for violating a federal children’s privacy law. The law, called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, directs young people to obtain consent from a parent before collecting personal details – such as an email address or precise location – from a child under 13. Sites and apps require it.
Meta and its platforms have been of particular concern to regulators. Last month, the FTC said it was considering action to prevent Meta from profiting from young people’s data on all of its platforms, including Instagram and Horizon World, and that the company’s “recklessness” put young users at risk. Was. Meta later asked a federal court to block the agency’s proposed action.
The age change for the Quest headset comes as the creation of a virtual reality-based version of the Metaverse has become crucial to the future of the meta. The company’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has spent the past two years moving his social networking business into the metaverse. Last year, he spent nearly $14 billion to expand Reality Labs, the arm of the company dedicated to building hardware and developing the metaverse.
The high cost of trying to turn Metaverse into a mainstream business has spooked Wall Street, causing Meta’s stock to plummet last year. Enthusiasm for the metaverse has also waned over the past year, as more technologists flock to the rise of artificial intelligence with the release of chatbots such as Chatbot. Mr. Zuckerberg has similarly pushed for AI to be incorporated into Meta’s products.
But he has also said that he remains on the Metaverse. In a companywide meeting last week, Mr. Zuckerberg assured employees that he remains committed to his virtual reality and augmented reality plans and that it will be a long haul toward realizing his vision.
Lowering the minimum age requirements for the company’s Quest headset could help introduce younger audiences to the metaverse, similar to how Facebook started on college campuses in 2004, so they can continue to use the technology as they grow up. more likely to keep.
Meta is seeking to integrate itself into young people’s lives, possibly following a strategy used by other gaming companies, including Roblox, Microsoft with its Minecraft game and Epic Games, makers of Fortnite. The combined user base of those games is in the hundreds of millions, many of whom are under the age of 35.
Josh Golin, FairPlay’s executive director, said, “What we’ve seen is Meta, based solely on commercial imperative, continually downplaying the lifespan of its virtual reality products and doing so without any evidence that These things are safe for young people.” Nonprofit children’s advocacy group. “It’s clearly beyond that and clearly driven by the fact that they’re trying to compete for a market, not driven by the needs of the children.”
Meta is working to reassure regulators that it will provide parental controls to keep young users safe when using the device, said two people with knowledge of the company’s plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Some of them include time limits, content or parental controls on apps and privacy settings that allow other people using Horizon World to follow pre-teens without approval from them or their parents. will not give.
The company said it would use data from preteens experimenting with the Quest headset to provide “age-appropriate experiences”, but would not display ads for the age group. Parents can also delete their children’s profiles and related data.