Meta Quest (2): Meta announces new security features
This was overdue: Meta provides tools that allow parents to control and monitor their offspring's VR consumption.
As Meta Quest 2 becomes more widespread, more and more minors are coming into contact with the technology. Popular metaverse platforms like VRChat in particular are where many children hang out. Since these social spaces mirror society and are largely unmoderated, they run the risk of being exposed to sexual harassment and hate speech.
Meta has provided few tools to help guardians monitor and manage their offspring's VR consumption. That drew the attention of the UK's data protection authority, the ICO, earlier this year. Meta was threatened with warnings and fines. Possibly in response, the company is now announcing comprehensive parental control tools that will roll out in the coming months.
Here's how the parental controls work
As a first step, Meta is expanding the lock pattern feature that allows Meta Quest (2) to protect against unauthorized access. Starting in April, Meta wants to give parents the option of blocking certain VR apps with this security measure. In this case, the corresponding VR apps are only launched when the correct lock pattern is entered.
Starting in May, all VR apps that are unsuitable for children and young people of a certain age will also be blocked. The age ratings of the IARC serve as a basis. For this safety measure to take effect, the youngsters must be logged into Meta Quest 2 with their Facebook account and correct age information. The minimum age for opening a Facebook account and using the VR glasses is 13.
Since children have different maturity levels, parents can unlock VR apps for free use in individual cases. This assumes that the parent or guardian also has a Facebook account. The offspring can send requests to unblock individual VR apps and the parents can approve or reject them. The linking of the Facebook accounts is done via a new parent dashboard in the Oculus Companion app, which both parties have to agree to.
Comprehensive control mechanisms
Monitoring and control of VR consumption is largely done via the parent dashboard. Parents also have the option here to
- block browser usage,
- view a list of all VR apps in use,
- receive notifications about app purchases,
- view the duration of usage and friends list, and
- block PC VR usage (Oculus Link / Air Link).
The measures are not limited to virtual reality. With the Family Center, Meta introduces tools that allow parents to control how their offspring use other Meta services like Instagram. The Family Center is also a one-stop-shop that includes help on how to use social media.
In planning these tools and platforms, Meta worked with experts such as Larry Magic of Connect Safely, Dr. Michael Rich of the Digital Wellness Lab, Janice Richardson of Insight SA, and Jutta Kroll of the Digital Opportunities Foundation.
Tools can also be used with a meta account
All of the tools mentioned are intended for children and teens 13 and older. Meta separately points out that younger children are prohibited from using a Facebook or Instagram account.
What if parents don't have or want to set up their own Facebook account? Meta responded to UploadVR with the following statement when asked:
"Yes, a Facebook account will be required for both parents and teens at this time. While incorporating external feedback, we’ve been working to support VR parental supervision tools for users with Facebook log-in, while also preparing for parental supervision tools to support the new account log-in options for Quest devices mentioned at Connect last year."
Meta announced at Connect that the Facebook account requirement for Quest devices will be dropped. Exactly how and when is not known. It is likely that the company is working on an overarching Meta account that is not tied to Facebook usage. The statement suggests that parents will be able to use such an account in the future.
According to Meta, the announced security features are only a first step, but they already seem quite comprehensive and well thought-out. It's encouraging that Meta has taken the criticism of recent months seriously and is willing to help parents with their duty of care.
Read more about Meta Quest 2:
- Metaverse office: Meta now lets you work on the beach
- Meta loosens Metaverse rules
- Meta Quest 2: Meta is looking for the million dollar game idea