Meta Opens up its Social VR Space Horizon Worlds to Teens

Meta Opens up its Social VR Space Horizon Worlds to Teens – Meta declared that it is expanding Horizon Worlds access to teenage users residing in the United States and Canada. Previously, the social VR platform was only available to users 18 years old or older. The company has implemented a series of safety measures and default settings suitable for users of that age range, as part of the expansion.

Lawmakers and advocates for children’s rights had requested that Meta cancel its intention to allow younger users on the platform. The decision to proceed with the expansion comes despite these calls for action. Today’s announcement was not unexpected, as a memo that was leaked in February revealed that Meta intended to expand access to Horizon Worlds to users aged 13 to 17. Following this revelation, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, asking him to cancel the plans. 

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The Senators claimed that allowing teenagers access to a “digital environment with potential dangers” would be unwise. Meta has invested in additional safety features for the platform, including backend safeguards and tools for parental supervision. These measures will enable both parents and teenagers to manage their experiences before gaining access to Worlds. The company plans to introduce Horizon Worlds to teenagers gradually, allowing it to closely monitor usage before extending access more widely.

Teenagers on the platform have the ability to select who they want to follow and accept follow requests from. Their profiles are automatically set to private, allowing them to accept or decline any follow requests. Meta has also implemented default settings to protect the privacy of teen users, such as not displaying their active status or location on Horizon Worlds to other users. However, these settings can be altered, and teenagers can choose whether to show their active status and public event or world to their connections.

“We use content ratings to ensure teens have an age-appropriate experience within Worlds,” Meta wrote in a blog post. “For example, mature world and event ratings prevent teens from finding, seeing, or entering spaces that contain mature content. Our policies prohibit teens from publishing mature worlds or events. Worlds violating this policy will be removed.” In addition, Meta will modify the voices of individuals who are unfamiliar to a teenager, resulting in distorted sounds. The teenager’s voice will also be altered, rendering it unintelligible to unknown individuals.

Meta has announced that it will restrict interaction between teens and adults on its social VR platform, Horizon Worlds, by not displaying any adults that a teen doesn’t know in their “people you might know” list. Parents can also set up parental supervision through Meta’s Family Center and monitor their teen’s activity, including who they follow and who follows them. This includes the ability to adjust and lock safety features, view usage time, and block access to the platform altogether.

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Some child rights activists expressed concern about young teens being exposed to sexually explicit and homophobic content on the platform. Meta has previously faced issues with user safety on the platform, including reports of groping and sexual harassment. The company later introduced a “personal boundary” feature to address these concerns, but the scale of the platform makes it difficult to moderate speech-based interactions. Despite Horizon Worlds initially being restricted to adults, many young users were reportedly able to bypass the age limit and access the platform.

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