Meta stated on Tuesday that the teen populations of the United States and Canada will soon have access to its Horizon Worlds social VR stage. Meta defines teens as anyone between the ages of 13 and 17, so they’ll have an extra feature ready to help provide a safer environment for adolescent gamers.
For instance, adolescent profiles will be secret by default, and a teen’s online status would not be displayed on Meta unless the kid actively chooses to do so. Voice mode, which distorts your own voice and changes the voices of people you don’t know to “calm, nice noises,” will naturally be activated for teenagers. Meta’s “people you might know” section will not include any adults that an adolescent gamer is unlikely to know. The company also claims that it has brought its VR parental control tools to Horizon Worlds.
The expansion to adolescents might bring in new users for the network, which has supposedly had trouble keeping existing ones. The decision, however, has been heavily criticized. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) learned about the plans in February via The Wall Street Journal and wrote to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in March to urge him to halt them. With your history of not protecting minors, the senators are worried about “Meta’s strategy to target young people with offers in the metaverse.” The public no longer has faith in Meta because of the company’s proven track record of putting adult interests ahead of those of children and teens.
Despite the pushback, Meta is pressing on with the launch nevertheless. “Meta has a history of catastrophic failure in protecting children and teenagers,” Markey said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “Once again, this corporation has decided to put young people in risk for commercial benefit.”
Meta is placing extra pressure on Horizon Worlds by making it more appealing to teens in order to compete with other metaverse-type platforms like Roblox and Fortnite, both of which have special protections in place for younger players. In addition, Horizon Worlds from Meta is expected to launch for both desktop and mobile devices “soon.”