Meta has been gradually knuckling down on safety in virtual reality (VR), introducing features like the personal boundary last month. Few could argue that it is long overdue, so today the company has revealed plans to roll out a new set of parental supervision tools to help parents control what their children see in VR.
With the aim to “help parents, guardians, and teens better navigate VR”, to begin with, Meta’s going to expand the Unlock Pattern feature that users can already utilise to secure their device or saved passwords. From next month, the unlock pattern can be employed to lock specific apps away should a parent feel they’re not age-appropriate.
Following on from this, in May an initial suite of tools will arrive that’ll include “automatically blocking teens 13+ from downloading or purchasing IARC rated age-inappropriate apps in the Quest Store.” Parents will be able to override these blocks if they so chose or their children can put in a request to have a block removed in the app itself.
All of this and more will be located within a Parent Dashboard in the mobile app, so there’s no need to keep jumping into VR. Here’s the entire function list parents will have access to:
- The parent will be able to approve their teen’s download or purchase of an app that is blocked by default based on its IARC-rating
- Teens 13+ can submit an “Ask to Buy” request, which triggers a notification to their parent
- The parent can then approve or deny the request from the Oculus mobile app
- The parent will be able to block specific apps that may be inappropriate for their teen which will prevent the teen from launching those apps. Apps that can be blocked include apps like web browsers and apps available on the Quest Store
- The parent will be able to view all of the apps that their teen owns
- The parent will be able to receive “Purchase Notifications,” alerting them when their teen makes a purchase in VR
- The parent will be able to view headset screen time from the Oculus mobile app, so they’ll know how much time their teen is spending in VR
- The parent will be able to view their teen’s list of Oculus Friends
- The parent will be able to block Link and Air Link, which will prevent their teen from accessing content from their PC on their Quest headset
It is certainly a first step towards giving parents greater control over their children’s VR habits, although how many will actually use it? As Meta continually notes in its blog post, the Quest 2 is only intended for users aged 13+ but how many times have you been in a social world such as Rec Room or VRChat and heard players much younger than that. Or go onto YouTube to see kids playing Beat Saber. The 13+ recommendation is just that, a recommendation, so with young players exploring VR greater protections are a must.
As these new tools roll out and more are introduced, gmw3 will keep you updated.