So by now we have discussed the Metaverse and a variety of subjects that will be affected greatly without Trust and Safety guardrails in place; including Fraud, Impersonation, protected groups and hate speech.  At the heart of these pieces is of course, the Metaverse. 

For those of you who are considering a space in the Metaverse, or have kids that are already spending time in the Metaverse (Roblox anyone?) here’s a recap explaining what it is:

The Metaverse can be defined as a fully digital environment accessed through virtual reality technologies such as VR headsets. Essentially, the Metaverse is meant as a fully immersive experience within a digital space; and most of our personal faculties are engaged in the virtual world through the use of headsets (visibility), earphones (sounds and voices), vests and gloves (touch).

Trust, Safety and Children in Web 3.0

In our final instalment, we are tackling the wonderful world of Trust, Safety and a subject that is very near and dear to our hearts: Children and Web 3.0. 

In a way, the Metaverse has been a part of children’s lives for quite some time. Think about virtual worlds like Club Penguin, or online games such as Wizard101. These immersive experiences allowed young people to express themselves, interact in a live environment with other players and create their own spaces and do what they wanted (with guidelines and moderators, of course). 

While these products aren’t as immersive as the future Web 3.0 purports to be (e.g. you don’t need headsets to enjoy Club Penguin per se), these games and virtual worlds provided an escape from reality for children that in many cases were the beginning structure that allowed for ideas such as the Metaverse to begin.

Safety in the Metaverse

Through natural progression children’s products have cropped up in the Metaverse and continue to thrive here. (Think: Roblox, Minecraft). And within these products exist branded spaces owned and run by real world organisations. Take for example the My Little Pony franchise. It has set up its own space located within Roblox, where kids can interact with their favourite characters, play games and generally become an integral part of the My Little Pony world. Other well known kids brands such as Lego, Nickelodeon and Nike have created Metaverse environments and in some cases partnering with real world events or creating Metaverse-specific products in which kids must log in and interact in order to participate, win or purchase. 

Whether it’s in spaces designed for kids or they are peeking into forbidden spaces, we know both children and parents want these spaces to be safe, fun and create a meaningful experience.  We’ve presented past blogs that outline current issues with safety in the Metaverse – and kids are and will continue to be exposed to these same dangerous issues. All the same topics that we discussed in earlier blogs linked above will definitely be affecting young users. Industry experts have been telling companies ‘…to lead with safety in mind’ or suffer the consequences. 

The Good News

In a positive light, we found that some brands are proactively working to ensure kid-related spaces are heavily focussed on safety, and in fact, are making it a part of their development strategy at the outset. Take My Little Pony again, as an example. Their space was created with safety in mind by removing the chat feature at the get-go, and they eliminated the Robux (Roblox’s currency system) altogether in order to keep their users safe from potential scammers and inappropriate conversations. This way users can focus more on self-expression, play the minigames for badges and not be inundated with harassing language and threats to their pocketbooks.  

And other Web 3.0 worlds such as Minecraft create endless opportunities for socialising; or learning new skills like problem-solving, team building and exploring their interests in a new environment. Also, we discovered that Minecraft can be a positive learning environment to expose children to different cultures through the Metaverse.

Discord Sets a Positive Precedent

Other companies have found great solutions to meet kids where they are with their mental health. At last year’s annual FOSI conference we got to learn more about how the partnership between Discord and the US Crisis Text Line has helped to save lives. 

While Discord isn’t part of the Metaverse, they have partnered with the US Crisis Text Line and made their support line widely available via the Discord platform. Since almost 22% of young people aged 16-24 are Discord users, and many of their channels are about the metaverse, online games and music, this makes their partnership all the more important. The Discord/Crisis helplines are supported by volunteers that have been trained by Crisis Text Line experts. And so far the results have been extremely successful. 

Imagine if there were similar offerings across the Metaverse – both anonymous and supported by peer volunteers?

Active versus Passive time

As well as safety, it’s important to talk about bringing value to their kids’ products – not just monetary or status value but also personal, social, educational and goal-based value. Not only will this make the product more substantial but parents will be more inclined to allow their kids time there. 

Parents are fully aware that in order to function in today’s society their children must have some education in the online space. The more active their time is online the more value a parent will find in their online experiences. 

Think of how much value would be placed on badges or certain items which are only earned through hard work, learning morals or values, or even accomplishing educational goals! 

The Future

The Metaverse isn’t necessarily widely popular – yet. But it is expanding at an alarmingly fast rate and not leaving us. In order for it to survive and thrive there will need to be a lot of checks and balances put in place. In the meantime, we have advice for the business owner and the parent in all of you: 

If you’re a parent you’ll want to follow these recommendations:

    • Monitor not just where your children are spending online time, but how much time, and what they are spending their time doing:  Homework? Research? Passive or Active participation? 
    • Play with your kids – allow them to share their online entertainment with you so you learn alongside them. They won’t be so afraid to talk with you if something goes wrong
    • Confirm your VR headsets are also set with proper restrictions depending on your child and their age – remove VOIP where possible
    • Know who they’re friends with – In most cases they’re likely playing with school or real world friends, but remember half the fun is meeting new people from different backgrounds. Ensure these friends are of an appropriate age and not making uncomfortable demands on your child. 

If you’re a brand looking to invest in the Metaverse, you’ll want to consider the following:

    • Ensure your real estate has its own guidelines and are following appropriate policies (including CARU, COPPA and GDPR)
    • Ensure you are building safety in FROM THE START – including technology restrictions, reporting mechanisms, permanent removal of bad eggs, timers or shutting off your product after certain hours of the day 
    • Keep your technology and community knowledge front-and-centre at all times. Schedule regular updates to filters, your rules and your tools. 
    • Listen to your Moderation Agency when they report back on your community’s health and wellbeing. Has it changed over time? What is their new passion? How are they using your product? For good, or to get around your rules? Work alongside your Moderation Agency to keep abreast of industry news, cultural shifts and possible tech solutions on the horizon. 
Web 3.0 isn’t going to disappear – it’s only going to grow over time.

If together we embrace the changes with a clear head and safety at the forefront of development, then we can all enjoy the adventure together. 

If you or someone you know is building out their metaverse real estate, we’re happy to come talk with you about Trust and Safety best practices. It’s always best to get these conversations going early on – so get in touch soon!