‘Child Flag’ System Needed To Protect Teens From AR/VR: RPT

As technology continues to advance, the risks and challenges associated with it also increase. One area of concern is the access to age-restricted content, particularly in the realm of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). With more children and teenagers using AR/VR devices and platforms, there is a growing need for measures to protect them from harmful content and experiences.

A recent report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) suggests the implementation of a “child flag” system to identify and restrict access to age-restricted content on online platforms and devices. The system would require device makers and online platforms hosting such content to establish mechanisms that assume everyone is an adult unless marked as a child. This would give parents the option to designate certain devices as belonging to their children, allowing for more targeted parental controls.

The report emphasizes the importance of this system as an alternative to ID-based age-verification mandates, which it argues are unlikely to effectively protect teens and could have negative consequences for privacy, free speech, and technological innovation. By shifting the focus to a child flag system, the ITIF aims to provide a less invasive and more flexible approach to safeguarding young users online.

However, the report acknowledges the need for self-regulation within the AR/VR industry. Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research, suggests that companies should take a proactive role in managing content to prevent the need for legislative intervention. He warns that excessive government regulation could have detrimental effects on the industry and user experience.

Tuong Nguyen, a director analyst at Gartner, adds that comprehensive solutions are needed to address the potential risks associated with AR/VR technology. He emphasizes the importance of considering the broader impact of these technologies on different types of devices and experiences, as well as the unique vulnerabilities of younger users with developing brains.

Yaron Litwin, CMO of Canopy, highlights the heightened risks that teenagers may face in the AR/VR environment due to their cognitive development. He warns of potential threats such as privacy issues, explicit content, and addictive behaviors that could have serious consequences for young users. The immersive nature of AR/VR experiences can exacerbate negative digital behaviors and pose new challenges for youth protection.

The ITIF report outlines a range of threats that AR/VR poses to both adults and teenagers, including sexual predation, cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, and gambling addiction. These risks can have a significant impact on users if not addressed proactively. By implementing measures like the child flag system, policymakers and industry stakeholders can help mitigate the dangers associated with AR/VR technology and create a safer online environment for young users.

In conclusion, the growing prevalence of AR/VR technology presents both opportunities and challenges for users of all ages. As children and teenagers increasingly engage with these immersive experiences, it is crucial to implement proactive safety measures to protect them from potential harms. By promoting self-regulation, industry collaboration, and innovative solutions like the child flag system, we can ensure that AR/VR remains a positive and enriching tool for users of all ages.


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