Metaverse is a ‘threat to child safety’ experts warn after calls for schools to be moved into virtual world


CONCERNS over the metaverses’ effect on children have been growing among experts.

As tech companies continue to develop their metaverses, many questions are being raised about the role of virtual platforms in education.

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Concerns over the metaverses’ effect on children have been growing among experts.Credit: Alamy

Officials who recently attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland discussed establishing the metaverse as an education venue for children.

However, now experts are speaking out on the serious damage this could inflict on the youth and the future of education.

What risks does the metaverse pose to children?

In a recent white paper, Common Sense Media explores both existing and potential risks for children using the metaverse.

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First, the organization notes the physiological dangers that the metaverse can induce such as nausea, eye strain, and other forms of “cybersickness” among kids.

The company then talks about how kids’ privacy may be violated via a collection of nonverbal data such as facial and eye movements.

“The sensitive biometric information of young users could be exploited for commercial gain, allowing ad firms to use involuntary physical reactions to track and target their internal desires,” the organization said.

Common Sense also identified ‘false information and manipulation’ as a major concern.

“The metaverse’s one-to-one, immersive conditions make it easier for bad actors to persuade, mislead, and manipulate,” Common Sense said.

“The deceptive possibilities of bots, “deep fakes,” and AR-altered realities are daunting, especially for tweens, who will have trouble discerning what or who is real.”

What about potential risks?

Studies have shown that many users have experienced sexual harassment on VR platforms – 36% of males and 49% of females, to be specific.

What’s more, spending too much time in a digital environment has been linked to many mental health issues, such as depression, psychoticism, and paranoid ideation, according to a peer-reviewed article in Psychology Today.

Meta’s Global Affairs President Nick Clegg noted that integrating the metaverse with education would “require a distinct moderation approach.”

However, Facebook’s chief technology officer Andrew Bosworth also said in a leaked internal memo last November, that moderating behavior on the metaverse “at any meaningful scale is practically impossible”.

And if the level of harassment and hate speech present on today’s internet is a sign of what’s to come, then letting kids use the metaverse, which is more immersive, will need to be seriously considered, Alba MacGillivray writes for Impakter.

To tackle this issue, some officials at WEF proposed the idea of having universal standards and regulations for the metaverse.

Chris Cox, the chief product officer at Meta, said: “There will probably be something like a rating system, which we have for film, we have for music, we have for other types of content so that a parent or a young person can have some sense of what the rules are in the environment they’re going to walk into.”

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However, it’s important to note that many experts believe the metaverse can and will have a positive impact on people – that is when used in a healthy way.

Although, it is currently unclear what healthy metaverse usage looks like.

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