After the metavers for everyone comes the metavers for children, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Some companies are starting to position themselves as providers of the best virtual realities for kids. Sure, their initiatives are commendable, but we are not aware that this universe also has its dangers. Raising awareness of a shared responsibility, between parents and promoters of child metaverses, is one of the aims of this article.
Invented by “Snow Crash” (1992) author Neal Stephenson, the word “metaverse” refers to a virtual reality environment. Because it is connected to the internet, you can access it anytime and anywhere from a computer or smartphone.
The metaverse we know today has some similarities with Stephenson’s. Except that the patchwork of online virtual worlds serving as our nurturing environment is still in its infancy. But that doesn’t stop people and companies from getting involved in the metaverse, if only for buy virtual real estate, play games or even train soldiers†
The metaverse for children represents endless possibilities by :
- learn new skills;
- play online games alone or with friends;
- take virtual courses on educational platforms;
- and so forth
Here we can mention the example of Minecraft, which introduced some notions of culture to children through adequate learning environments. Soon the duo Epic Games and LEGO will also be popular with young people.
However, the metaverse of the child has its drawbacks† To quote only:
- the dissemination of inappropriate content.
It was therefore up to parents and educators to help the little ones navigate safely in the children’s metavar.
Some experts do not seem optimistic about the impact of the metaverse on the child. Already, social networks have landed with many setbacks : depression, self-harm, mental health issues, etc. The Kid Metaverse may be even worse than them.
However, a study conducted by the University of Southern California on gambling showed the opposite of these claims. In fact, it states that: games and virtual reality promote empathy and positively affect mental health† Provided, of course, that they are used correctly.
Only problem, the companies that have neglected the security of the users seem to be present in the metaverse again. It is very likely that the same actors will continue their old practices in this new virtual reality. And hello loneliness, the massive influx of dangerous content … and why not suicide.
The Kid’s Metaverse Ships In various benefitsknow :
- grasp abstract concepts in an engaging way;
- access to near real-life hands-on experience to help children better understand their environment and how it works;
- improving children’s social skills;
- provide a safe and controlled environment to communicate and make friends;
- the existence of a springboard for creativity and the development of children’s social intelligence;
- the metaverse as a source of amusement;
- bonding between parents and children;
- and so forth
However, it is up to the parents to be aware of the potential dangers and to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of their offspring† In this way, the children’s metaverse becomes an ideal place for children to discover and learn.
Sure, the kids metaverse has its strengths, but it also has: his weaknesses† We quote in particular:
- cyberbullying (often a source of bullying for children);
- lack of confidentiality and privacy issue;
- inappropriate content (violence, sexual content, hate speech, etc.);
- creating a dependency in the child given its highly immersive and engaging nature;
- the physiological and physical risks associated with the metaverse for children from intensive use of VR headsets (dizziness, nausea, headache, etc.);
- unequal access that will create educational disadvantages for the less fortunate;
- and so forth
To make this effective, parents are advised to closely monitor their children’s activities in the metaverse† So here are a few things to consider:
- acute monitoring of their online activities, what they see and do in the metaverse of the children;
- pre-definition of the rules and establishment of clear guidelines for the use of the metavers (even if this means that they have to be revised later);
- advice on how to behave when interacting with other people once online (including encouraging them to be polite and considerate);
- help with optimized management of the time allocated to the virtual world and the real world;
- and so forth
Also the manufacturers and companies have their share of responsibility† True, it seems an illusion to expect a lot from them, but they will have to take into account the following parameters:
- content moderation;
- reporting and repression of misconduct, with clear mechanisms for dealing with such reports;
- design of VR devices and metaverse systems adapted to the comfort and well-being of children;
- integration of antivirus software (including but not limited to password protection and encryption) in VR devices and metaverse platforms for children;
- and so forth
When we talk about children, and about the metavers for children, we cannot escape the question of protection and parental responsibility. Yet this responsibility must be shared with technology companies. Because by ignoring the dangers that children face on their platform and while using their devices, they are sure to lose customers.
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