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What is the Metaverse? Is it unsafe for children?

Updated: Jun 18

Hi guys! As everyone knows, for a long time, Facebook has been at the heart of modern interaction, and it offers several ways to get people to interact with each other, from words to photos and videos, etc. Zuckerberg and his team now see the Metaverse as an opportunity to combine different technologies such as live video chats, online meeting tools, video games, digital economy, VR and AR into one virtual universe. Since the launch of the Metaverse, the popularity of their first official product (a social space called Horizon Worlds) has peaked considerably over the past few months: more than 300,000 users worldwide.

But what is exactly the Metaverse? In a recent video, Mark Zuckerberg explained his new VR platform: "Imagine you put on your glasses or headset and you're instantly in your home space". He added: "There's parts of your physical home, recreated virtually. It has things that are only possible virtually. And it has an incredibly inspiring view of whatever you find most beautiful." In general lines, Metaverse users will set up the platform by adding their preferences, aspirations and part of fundamental aspects of their lives to build a virtual reality by moving a significant portion of their conscious experience to this virtual dimension (perhaps they make their imagination into reality). To me, it sounds like a Black Mirror episode, and I am not convinced yet that the Metaverse is the next big thing in terms of social media; in my opinion, they are trying to find different uses for technologies that already exist. Meta (the Facebook owner, on Twitter) explained that the Metaverse is "the next evolution of social connection" where people from other parts of the world will be able to "socialize, learn, collaborate and play in ways that go beyond what's possible nowadays." Is the Metaverse safe for Children? To join Horizon Worlds, users need a Facebook account (the minimum age to open a Facebook account is 13 years). However, it is essential to say that even if your kid is old enough to use this social media platform, ​you have to consider whether they have the skills and maturity to use this application safely. Personally, I believe this virtual space is unsuitable for children, mainly because of the possibility of engaging with strangers and possibly becoming easy prey for illegal practices. Another important aspect refers to the effects of VR on children's eyes According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, if people stare for too long at a VR screen, it can lead to eye strain or fatigue​. ​Why? Because we blink less when using a gadget with a digital screen than we do when we are not using one; this causes eye strain or fatigue. A study published in 2017 showed no severe deterioration of vision among children 8 to 12 who played a VR video game for 20 minutes. In addition, VR headset makers generally advise that young children should not use certain types of VR headsets, and you'll find that most optometrist organizations recommend the same thing. This isn't because there's something particularly harmful about VR​ (or Metaverse visual media content)​, but because young kids are still in their development stage, and that includes the development of their visual systems. Kids are affected differently than adults by virtual reality Young children are still developing their abilities to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Obviously, young children do not believe everything they hear or see, but some concepts and ideas might be confusing to them. In addition, very little is known about the effects of immersive VR on children; in this sense, Jim Steyer (founder of Common Sense Media) states: "It is critical for parents and educators to be aware of VR's powerful effects, as we still don't know enough about how this highly immersive medium affects the developing brain." According to a study (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 2021), VR may impact the sensorimotor abilities of young children: "The results show that immersive VR can disrupt the children's default coordination strategy, reweighting the various sensory inputs -- vision, proprioception and vestibular inputs -- in favour of vision," explains Dr Jenifer Miehlbradt. The scientists also found that head-trunk coordination is not fully mature yet at 10 years, instead of the previously assumed maturity at the age of 8." My opinion: this is not an SM platform for children! Although Meta states that it will not tolerate hate speech or sexual exploitation, cyber-bullying and inappropriate online behaviour on its platform, enforcing these regulations can be challenging, and they created a page to provide users with SM security tips and alternatives to mitigate risks, there are still so many potential threats to children on social media including age-inappropriate content, engaging with strangers, scams, cyber-bullying (this can happen on any social media app).

Be careful with new technologies, I know that the Internet offers a myriad of opportunities for children, but it’s important to help them to use the online world in a way that’s safe and positive for their well-being. I hope you found this post useful and informative. I really need your support, as this is a self-funding project, so I kindly ask you (if you can or if you wish) to please share this post and subscribe to our mailing list! Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter :>) To see the sources of this article, please click on each link within the text. See you, guys! Photo credit: <a href="https://www.freepik.com/photos/vr-headset">Vr headset photo created by Lifestylememory - www.freepik.com</a>

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