Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, plans to lower the recommended age for using its Quest headset to 10 years old from 13 years old, the company said in a blog post on Friday, a move that could set off new privacy and safety concerns with parents and global watchdogs.
The company is discussing its plans with regulators, two people familiar with Meta’s conversations said, and is trying to assuage immediate concerns over whether younger children using the headset could be subject to greater risk.
Meta said it would require a preteen’s parental approval to set up an account, and that young users would only see apps and content rated for the preteen age group. The Quest headset allows people to enter the so-called metaverse, an immersive online world, and to play virtual reality games and do other tasks.
Over the past year, Meta has slowly been moving the age restrictions for its virtual reality apps lower to reach younger audiences. 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 restricted to users 13 and older, as reported earlier by The Verge.
The usage of technology by teenagers and children has long been a contentious issue. Last month, the United States surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a public warning about the risks of social media to young people, urging a push to fully understand the possible “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”
Virtual reality is a relatively new tech field and its risks are still emerging. But harassment, assaults, bullying and hate speech already run rampant in virtual reality games, which are part of the metaverse, and there are few mechanisms to easily report the misbehavior, researchers have said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.