Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. has released a new set of Metaverse youth safety guides to ensure their security in the virtual platforms they join. The new toolkit is also a move towards addressing cases of cyberbullying and creating a safe environment for young users.
Tightening security on the metaverse
According to a report by Bandt, the social media giant has called on youths to make use of their strong passwords and “exercise their critical thinking before heading into the metaverse.”
The new safety tool guide is a result of teamwork between Meta and an Australian youth-focused movement Project Rockit, which is dedicated to fighting cyberbullying and ensuring youth safety online.
“This new toolkit will add to the range of VR safety tools and products we have in place to ensure young people can safely enjoy exploring technologies,” said Meta’s regional director of public policy Mia Garlick.
“It’s important we empower them to use these technologies safely, and that we give parents and guardians the resources to help navigate this ever-changing online landscape.”
On its other platforms like Messenger, for instance, parents can see their child’s screen time, contact list, privacy and safety settings. On Instagram, they can see who their teen follows and can choose what notifications to receive from their child’s account.
According to Bandt, this new toolkit is an admission by the company of the nature of the virtual world. As exciting as the concept may be especially for young ones, it is not all rosy. Reports have shown several cases of abuse experienced in the metaverse, a platform that Meta has championed.
As the virtual reality (VR) platform expanded, cases of abuse, for instance, sexual abuse have also increased on the virtual platforms resulting in it being dubbed a cesspool of toxic content.
A researcher studying human behavior joined the VR platform and claimed was sexually assaulted only an hour after joining while others watched, exchanging bottles of beer.
With the risks associated with the virtual platforms, Meta, through the new toolkit came up with recommendations aimed at enhancing safety for users.
“Before diving into virtual space, make sure to clear out any objects or obstacles around you. Tripping or bumping into things can totally break the immersion, so create a safe zone!” reads one of the recommendations.
The recommendations go on to include the physical being and health of users as prolonged presence in the metaverse may cause discomfort such as fatigue and straining eyes.
“VR experiences can sometimes cause motion sickness, a bit like how you might feel in a moving vehicle. If you start feeling uncomfortable, dizzy or anxious, take a break and give yourself time to rest,” said Meta in the recommendations.
The toolkit also emphasizes that youths should watch out for scammers and “other shady characters” online.
It also recommends caution when carrying out online transactions, using digital money as well as avoiding clicking on sketchy links” or accepting invitations from people they don’t know, unless the invitations are coming from trusted sources.
“Think carefully about who you engage and share information with or accept follow requests from. Be mindful of sharing information about yourself and your experiences.
“To protect your identity, you might consider using a pseudonym instead of your real name,” the toolkit added.
In cases of encountering harassment, abusive behavior or undesirable content, the toolkit encourages the youth to block, mute or report the offenders.
A report by Elle says while the physical body might not be present, the mind is “tricked into thinking it is,” which makes abuses in the VR worrisome and problematic.
The Social Media Victims Law Center says while Meta updates its safety features adding parental controls on its various platforms, more needs to be done. They say the company has allowed children to be addicted to their platforms, which increases their exposure to harmful content, cyber-bullying and mental health problems.