According to a Washington, D.C., technology think-tank report, online platforms and device producers should be required to implement a system to “flag” children attempting to access restricted augmented reality and virtual content.
According to the report, Congress should mandate that online platforms and device manufacturers that host age-restricted material establish a system of “child flags” that allow platforms to assume that everyone is an adult until they are marked as such. Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.
The report continued that device makers should integrate the child flag system in their operating systems parental controls and apps and websites serving age-restricted material should check for its signals before serving their content.
“The flag system is flexible,” said the report’s author, policy analyst Juan Londoño. It gives parents the choice of marking a device to be a child-owned device.
“It provides a middle ground that’s less invasive, less disruptive than ID mandates, and gives parents and users more tools to tackle online behavior,” Londoño told TechNewsWorld.
The report also stated that the current policy of focusing on age verification mandates based on IDs will not make teens safer and in fact, it would worsen their online experience for teens and adults.
They could also erode the privacy of users, chill the free speech and stifle development of AR/VR and the metaverse.
“Mandates can become a privacy liability, not only for teen users but potentially everyone,” Londoño said.
“If your ID is required in order to access AR/VR services then that means that someone must collect, sort and handle that data,” he added. “That could be a liability because the companies who collect that data are now a target to anyone looking to steal their data.”
“Whenever you attempt to mandate controls on technology, manufacturers will react to this,” said Ross Rubin. Principal analyst at Reticle ResearchNew York City-based consumer technology consulting firm.
He stated that online age restrictions were not enforced. It’s a cliche to say that many websites only require you to check a box. However, there are some websites that perform more thorough verifications, such as requiring a photocopy of your license.
Self-Regulation is Required
Mark N. Vena President and principal analyst of SmartTech Research In San Jose, Calif. it was recommended that AR/VR stakeholders self-regulate themselves.
He told TechNewsWorld that companies need to take responsibility for managing content in a way that is more manageable. “If they do not, then the only option is to pass legislation. This has a negative effect every time.”
Tuong Nguyen a director analyst, member of the emerging technology and trends team, at Gartner.
He told TechNewsWorld that “we should also remember that head-mounted computing devices are only an end-point device, and that AR andVR are experiences.” “Therefore, whatever system is in place needs to address end-point computing devices more broadly — phones, tablets, other types of displays — as well as the impact of the experience type — AR, VR, or otherwise.”
He said that more research is needed to better understand the negative effects we are trying to prevent.
“I think that the issue with non-adults using AR/VR, or any new technology, is that the kids’ brains still develop, making the outcomes not only unpredictable, but also negative issues could be more harmful than if they were in a fully matured, developed brain,” he said.
Exacerbating bad behavior
Yaron Lithwin, CMO CanopyThe company, which makes software and tools for monitoring children’s online and mobile activity, also agreed.
He told TechNewsWorld that teens are more vulnerable to AR/VR threats due to their developing brains, which affect their risk assessment, decision-making and impulsiveness. This makes them more susceptible than adults to AR/VR-related threats, such as privacy issues, explicit material, and addiction.
Vena said that “AR/VR will have a tremendous social impact, because there are going to be many children who use these products. And with the wrong materials, it could have devastating negative effects.”
Nguyen said that head-mounted devices could exacerbate the negative digital behavior that already exists. “For AR HMDs, the idea is that you don’t even have to pull out your phone, or keep it out, because the display is in front of, or near your eye — potentially a non-stop flow of information,” he explained. “At least, it’s more distracting than using a smartphone.”
“For VR HMDs, your visual and audio field is literally surrounded by it — either separating you completely or significantly from the physical world around you,” he continued. “There have been questions raised about the potential harm of having a screen so close to your eyes, for long periods of time — not to mention the physical safety risks of having your head in a box.”
Protecting youth from AR/VR dangers requires proactive safety measures
The ITIF Report includes a laundry-list of threats AR/VR poses for both adults and teenagers. The ITIF report includes a laundry list of threats AR/VR poses to both adults and teens.
“The threats kids will face in the metaverse already manifest themselves in social media and the internet at large,” Londoño said. However, due to the way AR/VR is perceived, these threats have a greater impact on users. He added, “If we do not address them, the metaverse will inherit them.”
Rubin was in agreement. “You are adding a new dimension of interaction and emotional impact to many of the concerns that teens have about social media.”
He did, however, point out that AR/VR is still a relatively new technology.
He explained that the adoption of AR/VR was very low compared to social media. “Compared to social media’s size and scope, AR/VR has a relatively small impact.”
He added, “There is no harm in attempting to prevent potential problems.”