When are kids ready for the internet?

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(Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Meta just spent a lot of time and money on a study that says it's safe for 10-year-old kids to use the Quest for a few hours each day. There are plenty of parental controls and provided your tech-savvy 10-year-old didn't lie and say they were 13 they are blocked from some social features so it's not exactly a free-for-all, but still 10 years old and strapped in a VR headset. That seems a bit extreme.

I'm not one to tell other people what they should or shouldn't do, and that goes double when it comes to parenting. Sure, proper parenting is in society's best interests but I'm not the boss so all I hope for is that parents use some sort of good judgment.

But I know what I think, and I think that 10-year-olds have no business seeing life through a pair of goggles. 

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I'm not a fan of connected tech products for kids as a whole. I raised three kids that eventually ended up being online in one way or another, but they were ready for it at different ages because they were different people. Any parent can tell you there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to kids. 

I know putting Disney princesses or Monsters Inc. decals on a tablet will make your kids insist they have one and plenty of companies create software and media designed to draw in children so it's hard. If you have very young kids, just know that it gets harder once other kids who may or may not be ready start bringing phones to school.

Products like Amazon's Fire Kids tablets claim to be designed for children and usually come with all manner of parental control software that your child can easily bypass once they've used it for a while. That's what the internet does — it provides information about everything, including how to bypass parental controls or school network limitations. Your kids are a lot smarter than they get credit for.

The saving grace is that you can sit on the couch with your child while he or she plays games or watches videos on their tablet, and you should. It's a great way to spend time together once chores or homework are done and usually the kiddies love it. That changes with VR. VR is a personal experience and you can do anything inside your headset and nobody else will have a clue what that is.

This is something that parents and companies that make VR products are going to have to figure out. I'm not advocating that children shouldn't have access to a VR experience because it can be cool and even educational. I just think it's important that Mom or Dad know what's going on inside that headset at all times.

An easy solution is to tie a child's account to a parent's and an app on mom's or dad's phone could give a notification about what is on the VR screen every time that changes. Blocking access to Meta's Horizon Worlds is fine because, like the internet at large, there will be creepy people there who have no business interacting with children. It's just not enough.

Meta previously thought 13 was the minimum age for people (kids really are little people even if they are also monsters sometimes) to use their services but even that was bad. Not all 13-year-old kids are ready for internet access without someone keeping tabs and supervising. This update brings some good changes, like requiring parental consent for data analysis (just say NO) and a promise to delete all the data Meta collected anyway when a child's account is deleted.

Again. I'm not here to tell you how to raise your kids and I don't want to tell you how to raise your kids. If you think your child is ready for an Oculus Quest, by all means, get them one. They will love it and think you're cool for buying them one.

I am here to tell Meta when they are screwing up and allowing younger kids to have an Oculus account without any means for a parent to actually see how a child is using it is a screwup. You're a gazillion-dollar company that helped pioneer consumer VR. Do better.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • cribble2k
    Give your kids an Apple device as soon as possible, else they'll be bullied big time in school.
  • EdwardMatthew
    Determining the right age for kids to go online depends on various factors, such as maturity, parental guidance, and online safety measures. It's essential for parents to have open discussions, set clear boundaries, and gradually introduce internet access based on their child's readiness and understanding of online risks.