Metaverse Understanding the Impact in our Children’s Lives.
Following up from our first blog on the Metaverse, this week we’re going a little deeper generally in how the Metaverse is set to impact our children’s lives.
The metaverse is transforming the way children socialise, play, make friends and develop self-identity.
The use for this technology is vast, along with gaming and socialising there are continuous developments in education and clinical settings.
For children there are endless opportunities to socialise, learn new skills, explore their interests, or take virtual classes through educational platforms. Imagine going on a virtual class trip to a faraway destination – without leaving the room! or instead of just watching a video of an erupting volcano – being able to be in the space interacting with it!.
Minecraft is already being used in learning environments to expose children to different cultures through the Metaverse. Roblox are also working on developing experiences where children can be immersed in historical events – rather than just watching or reading about them.
As with all technologies there are positive and negative aspects to incorporating the use of Virtual Reality and the Metaverse into children’s lives.
In our previous blog ‘The Metaverse – the Even Wilder West’ we discussed some of the issues of potential online harm and the risks for children when they are exposed to inappropriate content on some of the platforms in the Metaverse.
Does the Metaverse impact children’s mental health?
There are concerns that the Metaverse might exacerbate the problems that social media created, especially in regard to the mental health of young people. For adolescents, the ability to recreate themselves as an avatar which projects a different version of who they are in real life – can impact their self-esteem and body image issues.
Some experts are also concerned that the Metaverse can be addictive for children. Given its highly immersive and engaging nature, it can be difficult for children to manage their time and limit their use of the Metaverse.
This has been made obvious by childrens’ attachment to smartphones, so you can imagine how attractive highly immersive technology will be.
Being immersed in the virtual world has a potency which is not experienced when observing and interacting through a flat screen.
This is a new level of virtualism that children and adults are exposed to.
Research has shown that younger children whose brains are less developed than adolescences or adults can have a hard time distinguishing between real life and experiences in the virtual world.
In 2009, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab published the results of a study that focused on children’s memory and Virtual Reality. A group of children played with whales underwater through VR. A week after the experience took place, they were asked about it.
Some 50% of them said they remembered it – as if it actually happened in the physical world.
Children are completely alone when in the virtual world, which heightens their emotions – and taking the headset off for a few seconds might not occur to them. There is the potential for the immersive nature of VR to turn into a terrifying experience. When watching TV, you can quickly switch a channel to avoid children seeing something inappropriate or disturbing, it’s not so simple in VR. As a parent you may have no idea what is happening within a headset although some headsets such as Oculus quest have the option of casting to your phone so you can see exactly what your child is seeing. I would recommend this.
Educating Children in the Metaverse
Education experts believe that it is inevitable that the metaverse will have a huge impact on learning. Whether or not parents like, understand or want it, our children are going to grow up in the Metaverse.
Learning through the Metaverse has many advantages for children. The technology offers almost actual hands-on experience which can be beneficial for children and help them better understand the world around them and how it works. It encourages creativity and develops social intelligence in children. It can also improve children’s social skills, where safe and controlled environments have been developed in which children can interact with their peers and make new friends.
The experience during the pandemic with remote learning only underscored how important the social-emotional interaction is for children.
Future skills required by our children go beyond the core academic subjects like reading and math. They will need to develop skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and creative innovation all of which can be fostered in controlled metaverse environments and digital experiences.
New research has predicted that the next generation of children will spend approximately 10 years in VR over the course of their lifetime – or around 2 hours 45 minutes per day.
I happen to think this is a very conservative estimate of the time we’ll spend in the Metaverse.
What can parents do to help their children stay safer?
As parents you may feel anxious about protecting their children in these environments because you don’t understand them. You can educate your children on how to stay safe in digital environments such as the Metaverse the same way that you teach their children to handle situations in real life.
Discuss appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, check who your children are hanging out with in the Metaverse – just as you would in real life. Teach them to not give out personal details to strangers. Make sure avatar names are not real names. Research which platforms are appropriate for your children’s age.
Platforms like Roblox whilst not perfect, work hard on safety because they know many their users are children. They have developed a free ‘digital civility curriculum’ course to educate users on how to stay safe and have positive and productive experiences online. Other platforms like Decentraland are not appropriate for children.
3 Quick Tips to keep children safer in the Metaverse:
- Research before you Pick the platform
- Monitor it – be involved
- Remember to supervise consistently and always research any new platforms they are asking for.
The best way to help guide your children is to get involved, play the games with them and you’ll gain a much better understanding of both the risks and the reasons why they love it. Your rules will then be much more relevant.
Need help? Got a specific online safety question? Want to know practical ways to manage online safety in your home? Click on the image below to book a 1 to 1 session with me