Horizon Worlds, a VR game developed by Meta, is now welcoming teenage users in the US and Canada. The social media company is justifying this controversial decision by launching a range of new age-appropriate protections and safety tools.
In a new blog post, Meta announced that the game will become available for users aged 13 through to 17, whereas previously it was restricted to 18+ only. This means teens will be able to enter “immersive worlds”, interact with global users, and attend virtual shows.
The plans to expand the user base face much controversy. Public opponents to this expansion include US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, and the Center for Digital Democracy.
“Meta is making the same mistake with Horizon Worlds that it made with Facebook and Instagram”, said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
“They have prioritized profit over safety in their design of the product, failed to provide meaningful transparency, and refused to take responsibility for ensuring worlds are safe, especially for children”, Ahmed shared.
Meta is looking to reassure concerned groups by detailing the protections available for teen users of the metaverse platform. These include:
- Teens can control who they follow and who follows them, with their profiles automatically set to private.
- Teen users’ active status won’t be displayed and their active location in the Worlds universe won’t be accessible by others.
- Experiences within the Worlds are given content ratings, and teens will be prohibited from accessing mature content. Worlds violating this rule will be removed.
- When users are able to communicate using their voice, teen users will have their voices automatically garbled. It also “transforms the voices of people a teen doesn’t know into quiet, friendly sounds”
Among these safety features are also greater tools for parents to supervise their children. This will allow parents and guardians to adjust a child’s safety features, see who their teen follows / is followed by, and to block their teen from using Horizon Worlds.