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Democratic senators urge Meta not to sell its metaverse app to teens

Two Democratic senators urged Meta this week to prevent a rumored plan to distribute Horizon Worlds, the company’s principal virtual reality software, to 13- to 17-year-olds, citing concerns that the technology could negatively impact the physical and mental health of young users.

In a Wednesday letter to firm CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal called Meta’s plan “unacceptable” in light of the company’s “history of failing to protect children and adolescents.”

The letter focuses on a plan, first reported by the Wall Street Journal last month, that would enable Meta’s youthful users to utilize a virtual reality headset to join a persistent online environment constituted of various digital communities. Horizon Worlds is already accessible to adults older than 18 years.

Markey and Blumenthal stated that there is insufficient research on the psychological and physical repercussions of using the metaverse — Meta’s preferred term for the underlying virtual reality technology — and that the scant research that does exist is alarming, citing previous research on Meta’s impact on adolescent mental health.

“Your plans to immediately pull these young people into an unresearched, potentially harmful virtual realm with consequences for their physical and mental health are unacceptable,” they wrote, adding that “any strategy to invite young users into a digital space rife with potential harms should not be profit-driven.”

A spokesperson for Meta did not respond to a request for comment immediately.

The warnings follow years of criticism of the influence of social media platforms on young users, particularly their propensity to lure children down deadly rabbit holes.

TikTok said on Wednesday that all accounts for users under the age of 18 will soon have a daily screen time limit of one hour. This is one of the most stringent measures used by a social media company to deter minors from scrolling endlessly.

Other platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat, have also incorporated additional parental controls and tools to encourage children to take a break and set limits.

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About MahKa

Democratic senators urge Meta not to sell its metaverse app to teensMahKa loves exploring the decentralized world. She writes about NFTs, the metaverse, Web3 and similar topics.

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