The Metaverse :
"a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users."
Powered by decentralization and user-generated worlds and realities, the metaverse is an upcoming trend that is quickly becoming a new 'reality'. As I stressed in previous articles, it is utterly important that we start discussing the potential consequences the Metaverse can have on our youth. We are already seeing projects mentioning and targeting children and youth for this project. While I am not entirely opposed to this, as there ARE some benefits that can help children get a richer learning experience, for example, there is also a multitude of reasons why this can also be harmful.
I won't bore you with scientific studies about how screen time can be detrimental to the younger generation - I'm sure there is ample research that is easily accessible about this already. However, I firmly believe that something interactive and immersive like the Metaverse can be much more damaging than screen time, here's why :
The ability to distinguish between reality and virtual reality.
- Children's lives have become incredibly busy. School hours, extra-curricular activities, homework and loaded syllabi that require hours of studies. Most of them use their free time to engage in games and social media. It can be argued that these children are spending MORE time in the current virtual world than they are in the real world. There is so SO much that they are yet to be exposed to in order to understand the current reality we live in. The experience of having to create new social groups when changing schools, the experience of love and heartbreak, the experience of loss and grief, the experience of traveling for the first time independently, just to name a few.
Adults have enough experience of the "real" world to be able to distinguish between the different realities that virtual reality can offer. But do children have this set of skills?
The dangers of growing up in the metaverse.
Imagine, that all the time you spent playing games and on social media as a child was spent in an immersive reality instead. A world where appearance, social status, social interaction, and laws and safety are not valuable, regulated, or genuine. A world that teaches you that you can simply log off from your problems in the Virtual space, or that you can simply move your avatar to a new world if you feel like you don't fit in the current one you're living in.
Imagine if as a child you are making friends in this virtual reality who are mostly adults or people who might have malicious intent, can our laws and regulation offer the security or even, the justice or security that our children should have? We can't even comment on this from the point of view of adults, let alone children!
I recently stumbled on a video by YouTuber Ryan Trahan who has spent 100 days in the MetaVerse. Without spoiling the video for you, it highlights the beauty and dangers that your children might experience in the Metaverse. Adults might be able to differentiate between the people who are "weird" or look "unfriendly" ( although one can argue that it is MUCH harder to do so with Avatars) how on earth can our children have this skill if they lack the real-world experience to handle such issues? Mind you, I am not excluding the fact that they could meet genuine people who could end up being real-life friends - but realistically, the chances of this happening are way too slim in comparison to the chances of danger that will present themselves in the Metaverse!
A Parallel between the gaming industry and the metaverse
Although this is something that deserves an article in itself, I think something that is not talked about enough, is how the gaming industry has profited from children and youth in the past 5 years or so. Most games have switched to a free version to attract children to play such games ( Fortnite, for example), and then they proceed to pester them with Downloadable content that they can buy. We've heard endless stories of children abusing their parents' credit cards to buy Fortnite skins and crates!
Special Thanks to @Scisma for the artwork ! Check out his Torum Profile HERE
The gaming industry is shamelessly profiting over our children's innocence, and continues to do so without any regulations by the law! Do we honestly think the Metaverse will be any different?
To experience a new virtual reality, we first must be able to experience our own REAL reality. It is only through that experience that we can learn how to safely and morally navigate a new virtual reality. If we allow our children to spend the majority of their time in virtual reality, how can we expect them to excel in the real one?
Does this mean I should not let my child experience the metaverse at all? No! The Metaverse can still offer experiences that current education can not. They can experience virtually visiting cities, museums, the past, present, and future, the galaxies and the universe and so much more! But they should ALWAYS do this under the supervision of adults. Just like they do at school.
Let me know what your thoughts are about this! I'm curious to hear some reactions, especially if there are any parents who are reading this!
Thank you for listening, stay safe!