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Meta's Horizon Worlds opens to teens, sparking debate

The news: Teens in North America between the ages of 13 and 17 can now access Meta’s social virtual reality (VR) platform Horizon Worlds.

  • Launched as a beta product in December 2021 for users 18 and older, Horizon Worlds allows individuals to interact and create virtual experiences.
  • With a tenfold increase in monthly active users since its debut, Meta anticipates that including younger users will substantially boost this growth.

Yes, but: Some lawmakers have voiced worries over the possible dangers of allowing younger people to access Horizon Worlds.

  • Online harassment, mental health, and privacy concerns have all been brought up, and some lawmakers have questioned the effectiveness of Meta’s safety precautions.
  • Despite these concerns, the business has attempted to closely partner with safety advocates and authorities to address the possible hazards, and Meta's interactions with external stakeholders appear to have allayed some of the worries.
  • To address privacy and safety concerns, Meta implemented safeguards for teen users, including a “friends-only” default mode, barring minors from public events, and introducing a "Parental Dashboard" for guardians to monitor and manage their children's accounts.

Why it matters: Meta's extension of Horizon Worlds to teens underscores the growing importance of the metaverse in tech, emphasizing the need for companies to proactively tackle safety and privacy concerns as virtual reality reaches younger audiences.

  • This move also represents Meta's ongoing efforts to transition from its social media roots and establish a stronger foothold in the rapidly evolving metaverse landscape.