Just as you would not let your 10-year-old child walk to an unfamiliar park to play with children you don’t know, experts warn that you should not let them play in the metaverse without knowing where they are and with whom they are playing.
Like everything in life, some places in the metaverse are safe for children and others are not, explains Steve Grubbs, CEO and founder of VictoryXR, a leader in virtual reality and augment reality education software and immersive classrooms and campuses. The YPO member joined other parenting, education, smart home and tech experts at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to talk about how the connected home is reshaping how families manage their family life.
“Technology is becoming a third parent,” he says. “And, well, that can be a positive or a negative.”
Meeting at the virtual playground
If your children are online playing games such as Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft, they are participating, at varying levels, in the metaverse.
“This is what parents are missing,” Grubbs explains. “It is important that they see and understand the metaverse. Their children are entering these virtual worlds to play and socialize with their friends. They don’t have to travel to their houses – they just get online.”
That’s the playground you know – the friends your children see at school or have met in real life.
“The danger is that children can travel all over the world to meet people we may or may not know to be exposed to concepts that, maybe, we didn’t plan to expose them to yet,” warns Grubbs.
So what can parents do? Grubbs advises them to embrace the ever-evolving technology and even enjoy some of these games with their children. Though he warns parents to watch for signs of cyberbullying, which is a risk even among friend groups. Common signs a child is being cyberbullied include being nervous about going – or refusing to go – to school, being more secretive about their online activity and losing interest in other activities they once enjoyed.
Exploring the virtual word – and beyond
Grubbs and his teams have marked VictoryXR’s educational offerings ‘safe for kids.’ These run the gamut from dissecting a pig using VR goggles to walking around one of 35 – and growing – “twin” college campuses.
“Our space is 100% education focused – and gamified. It’s one of the good places,” he says, adding that his company’s goal is to bring a more immersive way for students to learn through virtual and augmented reality.
Online learning exploded during the pandemic, but Grubbs explains the potential for immersive classrooms and campuses through virtual reality remains, well, virtually untapped. Grubbs launched his company in 2016, well before quality virtual learning was in demand, positioning VictoryXR as a leader in this space. He predicts, “Every single university in the world will have immersive learning in the next three-to-five years.”
Immersive learning looks different in different schools – whether college, high school, middle school or elementary. But the general experience is similar.
“Students enter class as an avatar,” Grubbs says, explaining a typical VictoryXR offering. “They might take a field trip to the Great Wall of China, work in a cadaver lab or even sit in the courtroom to witness the ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ case.”
Instead of reading about these experiences or watching a video, students don VR headsets and interact with their surroundings.
Its impact goes way beyond being ‘cool.’
“If you’re a nurse at a local clinic and want to go back to school for your graduate degree, you cannot be on campus every day. Zoom, for as good as it is, doesn’t cut it,” Grubbs says.
This makes learning – at all levels – more equitable, a goal Grubbs is pleased to help educators meet.
“We are giving students all around the world the opportunity to learn in both worlds, by visiting places and having experiences that previously were impossible due to geography, safety or budgets,” Grubbs says. “And we’re making learning fun.”