We all heard of the metaverse. As parents, you may or may not be concerned about what it is. More important questions are: What does the metaverse have to do with my kid? What opportunities and challenges does technology bring? How can parents prepare themselves and their children?
What is the metaverse? More than virtual reality
Is the metaverse a 3D virtual universe? Yes, but more than that.
Metaverse, generally refers to an immersive digital environment where you can socialise, play and work as personalised avatars.
With the use of technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), people are allowed to move between different devices and communicate with each other in a 3D real-time virtual environment exactly like living in a sci-fi movie.
Yes, similar to what you see in the movie “Ready Player One”.
When did the term metaverse appear?
The term and the concept “metaverse” was first introduced in Neil Stevenson’s 1982 novel, Snow Crash.
However, the metaverse ‘proposed’ by Stevenson was more about a virtual place where characters could go to escape a dreary totalitarian reality, whereas the metaverse that we keep on hearing in the 21st century are more technology-driven, under the Web 3.0 ecosystem, in an optimistic way.
How to access the metaverse?
Despite the fact that some believe that devices such as smartphones and tablets will remain the primary way of accessing the metaverse, we lean on the side wearing headsets will be the main device to access the virtual world.
However, sorry to say, there is yet a single gateway to access the metaverse at the moment. Experts suggest acquiring some hardware to ensure an immersive experience. The VR headsets range from the affordable Google Cardboard to the most popular Oculus Quest 2 and Valve Index VR, depending on your budget.
As of now, there are a couple of platforms that offer experiences in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and extended reality (XR), which are like the different apps you could download from the App Store. But there is not a single portal that people can actually use for access.
Speaking in layman’s language, it is similar to how Yahoo created a portal to use the internet in the early days when the Internet had just started.
In turn, this has led to a number of tech companies offering a wide range of immersive experiences, from popular gaming and all sorts of entertainment, to virtual workspaces and even real estate. This includes platforms such as Roblox, Fortnite, Sandbox etc.
4 reasons why the metaverse is important to children
From Gucci to Starbucks, luxury and consumer brands rush into the virtual world for their pots of gold, but what does this immersive virtual world have to do with my children, and their future? Here are 5 ways for you to understand the metaverse:
1. Virtual social activities: beyond Covid-19 restrictions
Imagine how online learning can become a ‘face-to-face’ experience for children with the metaverse technology despite Covid-19 restrictions and geographical boundaries. Students could make contact in the virtual world and learn effectively as they learn through reading textbooks as well as virtually visiting historical sites.
Not talking about Zoom or Facebook calls, nor phones or computers, but instead use headsets and our bodies to enter the shared three-dimensional virtual space for virtual meetups. It will be a game-changer for how people engage in social activities.
(Finger-crossed for technological refinement, trust that the level of realness and naturalness will continue to rise.)
2. Avatars and alternate identities
Consider the metaverse as the digital twin of reality, so as our identities in the immersive environment.
When did this start happening? Over the years, it is creating an identity revolution that cannot be disregarded. With a relatively limited buying power, Gen Z is tremendously influencing culture and norms for today.
To be direct, it is something beyond faking an account with an email address to browse the internet or forums. Frankly speaking, an anonymous persona in a virtual world can even be safer than a traditional social media experience.
For parents with younger kids (Gen Z and probably Gen Alpha), you ought to believe that the education of virtual identities on the internet, or what we believe, in the metaverse, is no longer an option. With your best companion, it is actually something fun and creative for them to create a digital identity so as to leverage virtual learning as above mentioned.
3. Using digital currency in virtual world
Consider digital currency as a lesson of financial management for your kids.
Games may be free to play, but real money is used to purchase in-game currency that can buy clothes and gear for the avatars and characters or enhance the look of the game. These virtual currencies are an example of how virtual economies may work in the real metaverse.
4. Pave the way to the tech-must-be career future
As parents, you have to understand the development of different industries. (Yes, even for Gen Alpha’s parents). The fact is that: the foundation technologies of the metaverse, such as VR and AR, are as well essential technologies in many industries.
In the medical aspect, research has evaluated treatment benefits for VR and AR games. For example, treatments for anxiety and phobias in both adults and teenagers use virtual or augmented environments. One example currently under study is code-named VERA, which uses biofeedback and VR to help teens learn to regulate their emotions.There’s also interest in using VR headsets for autism therapy and research into using VR devices to distract children undergoing specific medical procedures.
Education and training are other fields to watch. Some evidence showed that VR learning can help with learning retention. Pilots, the military, and other professionals have long used simulations for training. Creating, programming, and remixing content is a solid start to learning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) skills, which turns out to be fundamental programming skills and languages of the metaverse.
One simple question: With these solid facts, why not allow your kids to learn and explore the metaverse?
Pros and cons of the metaverse
Not only technological developments such as the metaverse, but all developments come with both sides. It is always our duties, as parents, to strike the right balance for our children when allowing them to learn new things. Nevertheless, here is a table of clear pros and cons about the metaverse and related platforms.
Metaverse safety parents need to know
Build digital habits together
Work on research and explore the metaverse alongside your children, you can make sure to be one step ahead of them and prepare to discuss with them about the diversity of the metaverse. But remember, this is not merely about monitoring, but building a harmonious relationship with your children.