Bought your kid a VR headset for Christmas? You might end up regretting it

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  • Facebook’s parent company Meta’s Oculus virtual reality headset was a popular Christmas gift.
  • But the Oculus Quest 2, the company’s most popular headset, doesn’t come with an option to turn on parental controls.
  • According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the popular VR chatroom service VRChat has reported several cases of child abuse and harassment.

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Parents buying their kids virtual reality headsets for Christmas may be in for a nasty surprise.

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Facebook parent company Meta’s VR division Oculus saw sales surge over the holidays, with its core app taking the top spot in Apple’s App Store on Christmas Day.

But the Oculus Quest 2, the company’s most popular headset, doesn’t come with an option to turn on parental controls that let responsible adults 18+ block content and other content that could be harmful to kids.

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Other headsets like HTC’s Vive and Valve Index also don’t include child safety features. Although HTC says its headset is not suitable for young children. It’s possible to set up parental controls for Sony’s PlayStation VR via its PS4 and PS5 consoles.

In addition to the possibility of children being exposed to unsafe material, experts are too worried About the effects of VR on children’s eyes – although little data is available on this.

Meta has made VR a key focus of its business in so-called “metaverses”, a shared virtual world in which people can work, play, and interact with each other.

The company’s rebrand from Facebook has sparked a renewed interest in VR, a technology that has long struggled to gain significant commercial traction.

Meta said its terms of service don’t allow children under the age of 13 to create accounts, and that information is included in the setup process. All Oculus content is rated through the international age rating alliance, META.

VR dark side of

The Center for Countering Digital Hate, a non-profit that campaigns for Big Tech firms to end hate on its platform, found multiple instances of child abuse, harassment, racism and pornography in the popular chat room service VRChat. Gone, which is available on Oculus.

A clip shared by CCDH shows one user playing a recording praising child abuse, while another jokes about being a “convicted sex offender” with a minor appearance. The organization says that VR headsets are not safe for children, despite the absence of parental controls.

CCDH chief executive Imran Ahmed said the Metaverse is “a haven for hate, pornography and child grooming” that “connects users not only to one another but to an array of predators.”

“Any parent who gifted Facebook’s VR Oculus headset for Christmas should be aware that they are potentially putting their children in grave danger,” he said.

About VRChat Meta spokeswoman Christina Milian told Businesshala that the app is a cross-platform application. “This means that at any time, players joining Quest can interact with players connecting from other platforms,” ​​such as SteamVR or Microsoft Windows, she said.

meta has also said It will invest $50 million in global research and program partners to ensure that its Metaverse products are developed responsibly.

A spokesperson for the makers of VRChat was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Businesshala.

What do parents think?

The process to install Oculus Quest 2 is fairly straightforward and takes just a few minutes. Users have to link their Facebook account, for which they must be at least 13 years old. But there’s nothing to stop young children from using it, provided they have access to their parent’s account.

Some parents told Businesshala that they were happy with their children using VR, as long as they were under parental supervision. But he also expressed concern over the lack of parental controls in Oculus.

Matt Miller, a tech entrepreneur who founded software development firm Ustwo, said he bought an Oculus headset for his kids, who are 11 and 13 years old.

“We wanted the kids to have something they could show their friends when they arrived,” he said. “I liked the idea that they could learn about places they’ve never been before.”

But Miller and his partner Lisa think the meta should introduce the ability to filter what kids can see in Oculus, a sentiment echoed by other parents.

Eric Berry, a software engineer based in Saratoga Springs, Utah, says he was tempting his kids to buy the Oculus Quest 2 until he realized the device had no parental controls.

“I hope they add them soon or it will make their device a parent’s worst nightmare,” Berry said on Twitter.

Still, Miller said VR is a “compelling experience” and that his kids enjoy playing games like the rhythm action title Beat Saber and the social gaming app Rec Room. “They only play the game we bought,” he said.

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