Meta to let parents limit teenager’s virtual-reality exploration

Questions have been raised about whether it was doing enough to protect children from inappropriate content.

Meta-owned Instagram has also rolled out further parental controls, the plans for which were revealed last year.

It comes as the UK government legislates to protect children online.

The Quest headset’s terms of service say users should be over 13.

“Providing age-appropriate and safe experiences for teens while also empowering them to explore in VR is a balancing act”, Oculus, the Meta-owned company that makes the Quest, blogged.

BBC News has previously reported a researcher posing as a teenager was able to access virtual strip clubs in a popular VR app – not made by Meta- using a Quest headset.

Now, Oculus is rolling out tools to:

  • allow parents to lock specific apps directly from VR to stop teenagers accessing them
  • block teenagers from downloading or purchasing age-inappropriate apps in the Quest Store
  • release a “Parent Dashboard”, accessible from the Oculus mobile app, to – if both adult and teenager agree – allow parents to link to their child’s account

Using the dashboard, parents will be able to:

  • view all the apps their child owns
  • be notified when their child makes a purchase in VR
  • know how much time their child is spending in VR
  • view their child’s list of Oculus Friends

The new controls in Instagram and VR are part of what Meta calls its “Family Center”.

Launching in the US, and then globally in the coming months, these will let parents:

  • see how much time their teenager spends on Instagram
  • set the hours during which their child can use the app
  • receive updates on what accounts they follow and are followed by

Initially, teenagers themselves will have to initiate these controls.

Later, parents will be able to do so – with their child’s consent.

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