You don’t have to be 13 years old to join the metaverse anymore.
Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, intends to reduce the suggested age for using its Quest headset from 13 to 10, the company announced in a blog post on Friday — a shift that could spark new privacy and safety concerns among parents and watchdogs around the world, The New York Times reported.
Per the outlet, the company is in talks with regulators about its plans to mitigate concerns over the potential risks to young users, according to two people with knowledge of Meta’s conversations. And preteens will need parental approval to set up their accounts, the company said.
The move follows Meta’s decision earlier this year to let people under 18 use its virtual reality-based social network Horizon Worlds, and the company’s expanding inclusion of a younger demographic comes amid increasing scrutiny of technology’s exploitation of adolescents’ privacy — and its ill effects on their mental health.
One study of nearly 7,000 adolescents in the U.S. between the ages 12 and 15 revealed that those who spent more than three hours per day on social media had twice the risk of symptoms of depression and anxiety as non-users, according to an advisory from the surgeon general reported by CNN.
Josh Golin, the executive director of Fairplay, a nonprofit children’s advocacy group, told the NYT that Meta’s decision was “based solely on business imperatives,” adding, “It’s beyond the pale and clearly driven by the fact that they are trying to compete for a market, not driven by kids’ needs.”