A new report from the BBC has unveiled a potential issue for parents whose kids are interested in the Metaverse App run through virtual reality headsets. A researcher posed as a young teen and was reportedly met with some very R-rated content despite being underage. Here’s what you need to know.
According to a BBC News report, a researcher posed as a 13-year-old girl and “witnessed grooming, sexual material, racist insults, and a rape threat” while engaged in the virtual-reality world in an app called VRChat. The app allows people to explore the virtual world using avatars and the game has a minimum age rating of 13.
The researcher, who had registered to VRChat as 13-years-old but was never asked to verify her age, was reportedly able to visit virtual rooms where avatars were seen participating in R-rated activities. In addition, the reporting says she was “approached by numerous adult men.”
A representative from Meta, formally known as Facebook Inc., issued a statement, according to The Gamerindicating they were looking to improve safeguarding measures when it comes to minors.
“We want everyone using our products to have a good experience and easily find the tools that can help in situations like these, so we can investigate and take action,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to make improvements as we learn more about how people interact in these spaces.”
In response to the BBC News investigation, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said matters like this, when it comes to the safety of children online, need to be handled with urgency. Andy Burrows, who works with the NSPCC, said the findings of the BBC News investigation are “extraordinary,” adding, “it’s children being exposed to entirely inappropriate, really incredibly harmful experiences.”
A majorly problematic aspect of the reports, per the NSPCC and The Gameris “the fact that even if a child is honest and lists their age as 13, they are still able to access areas where virtual sex toys were on display, and characters were encouraged to perform sex acts.”
The reality is that even the most thorough parental controls in digital spaces will not 100% stop kids from seeing content that is inappropriate for children.
Basically, just like anything online, the best way we can ensure our kids are safe from harm or inappropriate content is to be vigilant about supervising and BY HAVING honest, constant communication with our kids about how to use the internet safely. Kids should never tell any person on the internet any private information about themselves, for example, and social media use should be supervised. Check out Fatherly’s guide to internet safety.