Meta Lowers Minimum Age of Quest Headsets in Bid to Lure Children Into VR

Facebook parent company Meta announced plans to enable children as young as 10 years old to enter virtual reality through its Meta Quest headset later this year, despite a recent advisory warning social media can negatively impact the mental health and well-being of children. “Today we’re announcing changes to give families even more ways to use and enjoy Meta Quest. Starting later this year, parents will be able to set up parent-managed Meta accounts for Meta Quest 2 and 3 for their children ages 10—12,” the company stated in a blog post on Friday. The policy change will lower the minimum age for a Quest account from 13 years old in order to allow preteens to immerse themselves in a virtual world filled with digital avatars and other technological fabrications. In its blog post, Meta said that parents will play a pivotal role in creating and managing their children’s accounts for the Quest 2 and Quest 3 headsets, and promised that preteens’ access will be limited to “age-appropriate” apps deploying virtual reality, or VR. “We’ll require preteens to get their parent’s approval to set up an account, which will give parents control over the apps their preteens download from our app store,” the company said. “When parents share their preteen’s age with us, we’ll use this information to provide age-appropriate experiences across our app store. For example, we’ll only recommend age-appropriate apps.” Meta also revealed that they’re working closely with developers to “bring more age-appropriate apps and games” to the platform in the coming months for the updated age bracket. The Mark Zuckerberg-owned company’s push to lower the minimum age in a bid to lure preteens into a virtual world comes amid debate over potential health consequences linked to social media use and wireless device radiation. For years, both Facebook and Instagram have been under fire for using tactics that get children hooked on social media at a young age, undercutting their real-life relationships with friends and families while exposing them to the risk of online bullying and abuse by sexual predators. Mounting Concern Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called upon tech companies and lawmakers to take steps to protect children from the potentially harmful mental and emotional effects of too much exposure to social media. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 8, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo) “The most common question parents ask me is, ‘Is social media safe for my kids.’ The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” Murthy said in a press release published in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment,” he added. “And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis—one that we must urgently address.” The impact social media has on children has been a longstanding point of concern. Murthy suggested earlier this year to raise the minimum age requirement for using social media platforms. Many platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, but Murthy said that may still be too young. Meta, meanwhile, has provided parents with guidance (pdf) when assessing whether they should allow a 10- to 12-year-old to use its VR headset. One section of the guide cites “a growing body of research examining the positive effects of VR in medical/clinical contexts, including interventions to support the development of social competence skills, to distract from painful or anxiety-inducing medical procedures, and to support specific skill development in specialized populations,” such as children with cerebral palsy. Zuckerberg’s Metaverse The metaverse so far has mostly been a digital ghost town, even though millions of Quest headsets have been sold. The Meta division that oversees the Quest headset and Metaverse lost $13.7 billion last year while bringing in $2.2 billion in revenue. Amid struggles to attract a broader audience, Meta cut the prices of its VR headsets earlier this year in hopes of getting more people to buy them before Apple’s Vision Pro is released. The company’s flagship Meta Quest Pro will retail for $999, down from its launch price of $1,499, and Quest 2 256 GB version for $429 from $499, Zuckerberg said during a broadcast on Instagram in March. Apple’s Vision Pro is expected to be available for purchase in the United States early next year, but it will reportedly come with a hefty $3,499 price tag. The Vision Pro will be Apple’s first major new product

Meta Lowers Minimum Age of Quest Headsets in Bid to Lure Children Into VR

Facebook parent company Meta announced plans to enable children as young as 10 years old to enter virtual reality through its Meta Quest headset later this year, despite a recent advisory warning social media can negatively impact the mental health and well-being of children.

“Today we’re announcing changes to give families even more ways to use and enjoy Meta Quest. Starting later this year, parents will be able to set up parent-managed Meta accounts for Meta Quest 2 and 3 for their children ages 10—12,” the company stated in a blog post on Friday.

The policy change will lower the minimum age for a Quest account from 13 years old in order to allow preteens to immerse themselves in a virtual world filled with digital avatars and other technological fabrications.

In its blog post, Meta said that parents will play a pivotal role in creating and managing their children’s accounts for the Quest 2 and Quest 3 headsets, and promised that preteens’ access will be limited to “age-appropriate” apps deploying virtual reality, or VR.

“We’ll require preteens to get their parent’s approval to set up an account, which will give parents control over the apps their preteens download from our app store,” the company said. “When parents share their preteen’s age with us, we’ll use this information to provide age-appropriate experiences across our app store. For example, we’ll only recommend age-appropriate apps.”

Meta also revealed that they’re working closely with developers to “bring more age-appropriate apps and games” to the platform in the coming months for the updated age bracket.

The Mark Zuckerberg-owned company’s push to lower the minimum age in a bid to lure preteens into a virtual world comes amid debate over potential health consequences linked to social media use and wireless device radiation.

For years, both Facebook and Instagram have been under fire for using tactics that get children hooked on social media at a young age, undercutting their real-life relationships with friends and families while exposing them to the risk of online bullying and abuse by sexual predators.

Mounting Concern

Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called upon tech companies and lawmakers to take steps to protect children from the potentially harmful mental and emotional effects of too much exposure to social media.

Vivek Murthy
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 8, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

“The most common question parents ask me is, ‘Is social media safe for my kids.’ The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” Murthy said in a press release published in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment,” he added. “And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis—one that we must urgently address.”

The impact social media has on children has been a longstanding point of concern. Murthy suggested earlier this year to raise the minimum age requirement for using social media platforms. Many platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, but Murthy said that may still be too young.

Meta, meanwhile, has provided parents with guidance (pdf) when assessing whether they should allow a 10- to 12-year-old to use its VR headset. One section of the guide cites “a growing body of research examining the positive effects of VR in medical/clinical contexts, including interventions to support the development of social competence skills, to distract from painful or anxiety-inducing medical procedures, and to support specific skill development in specialized populations,” such as children with cerebral palsy.

Zuckerberg’s Metaverse

The metaverse so far has mostly been a digital ghost town, even though millions of Quest headsets have been sold. The Meta division that oversees the Quest headset and Metaverse lost $13.7 billion last year while bringing in $2.2 billion in revenue.

Amid struggles to attract a broader audience, Meta cut the prices of its VR headsets earlier this year in hopes of getting more people to buy them before Apple’s Vision Pro is released. The company’s flagship Meta Quest Pro will retail for $999, down from its launch price of $1,499, and Quest 2 256 GB version for $429 from $499, Zuckerberg said during a broadcast on Instagram in March.

Apple’s Vision Pro is expected to be available for purchase in the United States early next year, but it will reportedly come with a hefty $3,499 price tag. The Vision Pro will be Apple’s first major new product since the Apple Watch, which was released in 2015.