Parenting and Keeping Kids Safe in the Metaverse
It was always on the horizon and well-used in science fiction, but now the Metaverse has a clear timeline thanks to Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and their strategic development of a digital world that surrounds us.
With the evolution from book-like web ‘pages’ to spaces that we can walk, talk, and exist in, it’s time to think about how we become the guardrails to keep our kids (and ourselves) safe.
Learn the tools of the Metaverse
I know this all seems incredibly futuristic, but if we keep up to speed with the basics, it will help us manage the changing landscape.
VR vs AR
Virtual Reality is a completely immersive replacement for the real world. It covers your eyes with monitors and plays music or visually-related sound through headphones. It’s meant for delivering an entire experience.
AR or Augmented Reality is our own life, enhanced with a digital element. For example, Pokemon Go is a game that allows the player to ‘see’ the creature placed on whatever the camera sees. With a quick flick of a finger, the player can throw the ball to the monster to catch it. It all exists within the screen but is a more immersive experience.
Similar to what Google Glass tried to implement, but neither the technology nor people to adopt it was ready. These will use smaller screens to add a new layer of information over what you’d see with a regular pair of glasses.
Virtual Reality headsets are used to put the screens in front of your eyes. Currently, they’re pretty heavy but provide the fully digital world as if you’re really living in it. Facebook’s new Horizon Home is going to be one of the most mainstream platforms with games, virtual classrooms, office experiences, and a new era of ‘social life’.
Guiding a New Generation of Metaverse Users
Just as we do with our kids’ social media and internet use, making sure that they aren’t talking to creeps or seeing things that they can’t explain yet online, we have to be able to help our children navigate this new world. It will all seem impossibly real, which opens up a realm of experiences to consider.
This is as cool for (some of) us as it is for them, so let’s navigate the metaverse and the evolving possibilities together. Be a part of their online exploration and share the stories with each other. Part of setting up boundaries, when appropriate, is understanding what they’re seeing and who they’re interacting with.
Be part of their world
Whereas we used to escape to mobile games, playing with friends on the Xbox or PC, kids will be able to put on their headset and escape completely. This may lead to an increasing divide between the worlds of parents and children and make it harder to relate.
At least while we’re all learning what this will bring and how to change the worlds in which live and how our behaviour in them translates to actual life, one option would be to have Family Time in the metaverse. For a set amount of time, we can play games together, each with our own headsets.
Disclaimer: As I’m writing this, yes – I know how crazy this all sounds.
As we do with Netflix, YouTube, the Internet, we have to put restrictions on what we want our children to be able to see. Since the metaverse will feel even more real, parental locks and age-based limits will have to be thought about. I’m hoping that this will be a feature in the new tools and platforms as they’re released.
Balance between worlds
As fun, addictive, and incredible as these new systems are, it’s vital that we enforce a balance between the digital world and our own. Time spent outside and in nature is good for mental and physical health and should be part of our daily lifestyle.
It may be hard to separate someone from where their friends are ‘hanging out’ but it has to be done.
And on that note, I’m going outside. All work and no trees gives James a headache.