Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, plans to lower the recommended age for use of its Quest headset to 10 years old from 13 years old, the company said in a blog post on Friday, a move that could raise new privacy and safety concerns with parents and global guards.
The company is discussing its plans with regulators, two people familiar with Meta’s conversations said, and is trying to ease immediate concerns that younger children using the headphones could be at greater risk.
Meta said that pre-teens will need parental approval to create an account and that young users will 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 slowly lowered the age restrictions on its virtual reality apps to reach a younger audience. In April, the company said it would allow people under 18 to use Horizon Worlds, Meta’s virtual reality-based social network. Horizon Worlds will remain limited to users 13 and older, as previously reported by The Verge.
The use of technology by teenagers and children has long been a controversial issue. Last month, the United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a public warning about the risks of social media to young people, calling for a push to fully understand the potential “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”
Virtual reality is a relatively new technological field and its risks are still emerging. But harassment, assault, abuse and hate speech are already widespread in virtual reality games that are part of the metaverse, and there are few mechanisms to easily report bad behavior, the researchers said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.