In a world of constant change in technology and communication, the term, metaverse, is a bewildering concept to many — not least the parents of children who are coming home talking about it with their friends. With that in mind, we thought we’d put together a primer for parents on this development.
What is the Metaverse?
Depending on who you ask, and how they interact with the internet, people will have different answers to the question of what the metaverse actually is. But in its simplest definition, the metaverse refers to those realms of the internet that encompass real-time human interaction.
The metaverse revolves around virtual reality (VR), avatars, and media and gaming content — all within curated virtual spaces in which people (as avatars) can move around and interact with each other. Roblox, Second Life, and PlayStation Home are notable examples; online games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft are what you might call “metaverse-adjacent”.
Another helpful way of explaining the metaverse to children is with reference to VR-related science fiction films, like last year’s Free Guy — not to mention Ready Player One, Tron, and The Matrix (hopefully more like the former than the latter!). Although we are decades away from the sci-fi dream (or nightmare) of really living our lives through VR, the groundwork for the metaverse is already here.
Creating the Metaverse
In a sign of the metaverse’s full arrival on the scene, Facebook (who owns VR product, Oculus) rebranded as Meta in October 2021 and, in a slightly bizarre video, Mark Zuckerberg announced a future focus on all things metaverse-related. Not to be outdone, Microsoft kicked off 2022 by purchasing Activision Blizzard for a whopping $70 billion. More recently, Epic Games and The Lego Group announced in early-April that they would be teaming up to develop a family-friendly, kid-safe metaverse. Three principles will drive their collaboration:
- Protect children’s right to play by making safety and wellbeing a priority.
- Safeguard children’s privacy by putting their best interests first.
- Empower children and adults with tools that give them control over their digital experience.
No matter how one chooses to define and interact with the metaverse, one thing is clear: the metaverse is here to stay — and will only expand.
The Metaverse — Parents and Children
As with all technological developments, there are clear pros and cons for children’s interaction with the metaverse and related platforms. For parents, openness and communication of the following are key.
- Meeting and staying connected with friends
- Finding communities and support for specific activities or personal issues
- Sharing artwork, music, and other passions
- Exploring and expressing themselves, creatively and safely
- Building skills such as cooperation and communication
- Potential exposure to harmful/explicit content and online predators
- The risk of cyberbullying, and consequences such as depression and suicide
- Exposure to excessive advertisements and other distractions
- Privacy concerns including the collection of personal information and other data
- Interference with sleep, exercise, homework, family activities
For parents, a good starting point would be ongoing conversations on digital citizenship: what does it mean to be a digital citizen? How do we engage with the internet in a healthy and responsible way? Do check out our earlier article on all things digital citizenship, “It’s Never Too Early to Promote Good Digital Citizenship”. It’s never too early to be having these discussions, and with the metaverse in its early stages — it’s the perfect time to stay ahead of the curve!
A Helping Hand from Trend Micro
Here at Trend Micro, we try to be more than just another cybersecurity company, to not just protect — but also to inform and to educate. Parents should check out our Internet Safety for Kids and Families program, which was founded in 2008 and has now reached over 3 million students, parents, and teachers in 20 countries. Its Cyber Academy is a fun interactive series for kids and their parents to learn lessons on internet safety and digital wellness.
We’ve also been very excited about Trend Micro Family, our free digital wellness solution that has linked apps for both parents and kids. With this all-in-one parenting tool, you’ll be able to find out what interests or worries your children, with updates from Trend Micro on what they’re searching for & browsing, what they’re viewing, and even locations they have visited. Currently supporting Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook is also in the works.
We hope this article has been a good read, folks. As always, if it’s been of use and/or interest to you, please do SHARE it with family and friends to help keep the online community secure and protected.