The new virtual worlds represent public squares where children and adolescents can meet, exchange experiences, learn and have fun, regardless of their geographical boundaries and social limits.
How do today’s virtual worlds present risks to young users, and what can we do to mitigate these? What are potential future threats to children in the Metaverse?
The fireside chat on "The Current Landscape of Virtual Worlds for Children" aimed to discuss the potential risks and benefits of virtual worlds and the metaverse for children. Speakers Julie Dawson and Steven Vosloo shared their views on digital identity, child protection, AI, digital literacy, and inclusion in the metaverse.
During the chat, the need for transparency, accountability, and ethical considerations in developing virtual worlds was emphasized, along with the importance of child-centered design to create safe and inclusive metaverse experiences for children. The speakers also stressed the need for collaboration between various stakeholders, including parents, educators, industry professionals, policymakers, and civil society organizations, to ensure the protection of children's rights and well-being in the metaverse.
The discussion highlighted the importance of proactive risk assessment, continuous monitoring and evaluation, and the development of child-centered policies and practices to ensure the safe and positive use of virtual worlds and the metaverse by children. Digital identity and age verification solutions were discussed as crucial for protecting children's privacy and security online, but they should be designed with user-centered and privacy-by-design principles in mind.
The "fireside chat" acknowledged that virtual worlds have the potential to bring innovative education, therapy, and play to children and families, but they also present new, unforeseen risks and psychological harms. Therefore, the need for robust regulation and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that virtual worlds are safe and appropriate for children was also emphasized.
The discussion also highlighted the importance of empowering parents, caregivers, and educators to understand the risks and benefits of immersive technologies and to guide children in their use. It was emphasized that research and evidence-based interventions are needed to address the potential harms of virtual worlds on children's mental health and well-being. Digital literacy and critical thinking skills were highlighted as important to promote among children to enable them to navigate virtual worlds safely and responsibly.
Overall, the fireside chat provided valuable insights and recommendations for ensuring the safe and positive use of virtual worlds and the metaverse by children, with a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach being necessary to ensure that children's rights are protected in the Metaverse.