A course of ever-improving, lightweight, interactive virtual reality (VR) headsets allows players to fully experience the stories and digitalised action of the gaming world. Whether you're working a nine to five serving gourmet meals in Job Simulator, slashing blocks to a catchy tune in Beat Saber, or running around the dimly lit hallways and dungeons of Hogwarts with Harry Potter: Waltz of the Wizard. Whatever story you wish to control, the Oculus has you covered.
Much like other tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, and Nintendo. Meta, owned by Facebook, has been providing headsets for public use since the latter end of the 2010s, allowing consumers to be engaged in the immersive fantasy, only if you log into your Facebook account, that is. Meta has been developing VR headsets since 2010, with its first release being the Oculus Rift in 2016. The newest installment in the headset lineup is the Oculus Quest 2: building off of its predecessor, The Oculus Quest.
The Oculus has its own set of games that can only be accessed and played through the device. Players can interact with VR-only gameplay by connecting the headset to either a computer or Xbox device. The Oculus is also a popular headset for showcase internet gamers, YouTubers, and streamers. With its versatile use and ever-expanding catalogue, it's safe to assume children might want the latest Oculus device as a birthday gift.
My experience with the VR realm has been highly positive; I had the opportunity to play Beat Saber at my high school's IT club back in 2019 when the Oculus Rift S and the Oculus Quest were first released. Despite being directed to a safe distance without any obstacles, I somehow managed to hit one of the remotes so hard on the desk that it disconnected! My other experience has been with my family's Playstation VR. I desperately tried not to scream as I checked security cameras for rouge animatronics in Five Nights at Freddy's: Help Wanted.
Meta's Oculus works similarly to other VR headsets on the market. By using goggles that can be adjusted and secured to your head, two handheld controls work together to let you interact with games. The headset is used to primarily see yourself and your surroundings, while the controls are your new hands, which you can use to pick up and interact with items in different games. You can move as freely as you like, so long as you don't bump into anything in the real world.
However, the ever-updating immersion begs the question: How safe are these devices for children?
Safe on Social was contacted by a concerned parent regarding the device's safety and what exactly can be accessed using it. When researching parental access, Meta's support centre states, "While Portal is designed to help families connect, it's not a children's device and should not be used without parental supervision."
Do the Oculus feature any parental controls?
Meta has a pre-established safety setting for their devices, called Household mode.
Household mode allows parents to track and regulate what children and contacts can download and play through their Oculus devices using the Portal app, including Oculus headsets. Specific contacts and apps can be restricted using a passcode, and parents can adjust what contacts and apps can be unrestricted when using the household mode.
However, with specific computer and Xbox games that use the Oculus to experience gameplay, they cannot be reached through the Meta household mode. These games are usually accessed or purchased through the Xbox or Steam stores.
To use the Oculus, either parents or children must log in using a Facebook account. While Meta is still changing this method, children have to be over 13 to create their own Facebook accounts, meaning younger children may use their parents' Facebook accounts to play. Facebook friends can't see what children are playing through their own or your account, adding additional privacy to the gaming experience.
Possible risks for children
Potential risks for children lie in the games that can be played. Single-player games, such as Beat Saber, are only experiences for one person, meaning no one can join the player or try to contact you through the game's player base. However, multi-player games, the most popular being VR chat and Rec Room, are games where online spaces are made for players to meet and interact in an entirely digital landscape.
Since both VR chat and Rec room require players to use their voice to chat with others and join public and private digital rooms with other players, hate speech, harassment, and bullying, have been known to occur in these spaces. Rec room and VR chat both have safety settings in their games, where you can mute, block, and report users who create unsafe areas for players.
Safety star rating
Written by Scarlett
I’m currently in Year 12 and love studying all things cultural and sociological. What drove me to become a part of the Safe on Social team was contributing to fostering a more equal and safe online world and the opportunity to educate Australians to promote a healthy relationship with the internet. My skills regarding managing cyber/creative burnout and acknowledging and responding to online criticism and hate will positively impact readers and the community.