| Tech trends

Keeping your kids safe in the metaverse

| 21 Sep 2023

The metaverse inspires users to contribute and create. The architects of the virtual worlds become their own digital inhabitants. Soon, your kid could be one of those creators. There are many ways this environment can be beneficial for children’s development. Still, there is more you as a parent can do to get the best out of the metaverse. Before society jumps fully into the metaverse, it is necessary to slow down and think about some of the possible risks that do not yet have any clear solution.

Identities, education, communication, financial transactions – these are only a few of the many areas the metaverse will somehow affect. It is fair to say the metaverse could be the next big thing. Not only do the virtual worlds enable users to experience unending adventures with others by erasing physical boundaries, but it’s also becoming a growing digital playground for people of all ages. There are many more reasons to join the metaverse for children and adults alike.

The idea that the digital environment will one day take over the real world is among the main doubts regarding the metaverse. But there are many questions we should be asking right now, such as the problems concerning privacy and security. “The earlier such risks are caught, the better it is to prevent possible issues in the field of cybersecurity,” says ESET’s security awareness specialist, Ondrej Kubovic.

How can you enable your kids to enjoy the metaverse in a healthy and beneficial manner?

1) Teach them about privacy

One of the main problems is definitely the lack of privacy regulations. For example, what happens with all the personal data extensively collected in the metaverse? There are organizations such as XR Safety Initiative that look deep into the lackluster legislation. As a matter of fact, XRSI focuses not only on the privacy issues, but also on some of the other controversial aspects of the metaverse, such as child safety or diversity and inclusion. When it comes to your kids, a good place to start is to explain that they should avoid sharing any personal information. Their home address, which school they go to, their daily schedule or family member names, let alone bank account numbers, should not be shared in the metaverse. “When the service is free, the users themselves become the product. And in the metaverse, we will likely be handing over far more data than ever before,” says Ondrej Kubovic.

2) The problem of anonymization and stalking

One of the big unknowns concerning the metaverse is certainly the level of anonymization. “Users will probably connect to the metaverse via their personal home VR headset with their own specific avatar, but how will all the personal data, activity and user information be anonymized? There are no answers to these questions yet,” thinks Kubovic. One thing is for certain, metaverse will create a playful digital environment for young users. Even here, however, we encounter a controversial issue. Do users want the metaverse to track all their activities and movement, or do they want to stay more incognito? “For example, algorithms will be able to track the appearance of two avatars together. It can depict a digital friendship, but the same tracking info can easily become a tool for stalking,” adds ESET’s security awareness specialist.

3) Prevent identity theft

So-called identity theft is a risk anywhere in the online world. “If the metaverses become a second reality for humans, stealing one's avatar can have immense consequences for the individual,“ suggests Kubovic. The cybercriminal can literally steal a victim’s identity controlling their avatar in the metaverse, and it could become difficult for other users to identify whether they’re interacting with their friend or someone else in their virtual skin. “Proper regulations often come only after the negative effects begin to manifest themselves in full. It is better to be ready and put preventive measures in place than to stop an already existing and possibly escalating problem,” claims Kubovic.

How will the metaverse be beneficial?
What advantages and disadvantages does the metaverse bring in terms of children's development? Check out the Safer Kids Online article about the rise of the metaverse and the technology behind it.

4) Don't forget about digital wellbeing

There are many benefits you can get from organizing your digital life. Just remember how exhausting it is sometimes to navigate through all that digital clutter. Now imagine how challenging it could be for a kid. “It is key to care for children's well-being from an early age. The metaverse draws its users in very intensely, therefore it is easy to lose track of time and overuse the platform,” explains psychologist Jarmila Tomkova. Psychologists don’t recommend virtual reality to children under 13 years of age. But regardless of your kid’s age, don't forget to discuss their experiences in the virtual world with them. Some of the virtual worlds of videogames such as Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite can help children develop empathy. Thanks to their worldwide appeal, this online environment offers a perception of other cultures and can even boost compassion for some social issues. Look at the metaverse as a tool to promote tolerance among young users. “On the other hand, the disadvantage might be additional space for inappropriate language and misinformation. Online risks will occur wherever people meet but there are ways to prevent harm and effectively educate young people about these risks,” adds Tomkova.

5) Set their imagination free

Spending time in virtual reality would sound insane a couple of decades ago. This concept has been a long time in the making and can finally be used by people anywhere. The concept of the metaverse is as real as the Internet, and can pretty much change our lives in the same manner. Children can, for instance, accomplish things they always wanted to but were unable to do in the physical world. Was there ever something they always wanted but wouldn’t be able to accomplish in the offline world? Log in to the metaverse and let their fantasy run wild because the boundaries of imagination are limitless here. This environment is an excellent tool for developing your child’s creativity. “Kids can bend the rules that apply in the physical world. Nothing prevents them from jumping several kilometers into the air among planes. The metaverse can convey the feeling of flying and other experience that mankind has longed for throughout its history,” suggests Kubovic. 


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