Understanding the Metaverse

December 19, 2022

Roblox is a platform where you can join millions of 3D, immersive experiences all created by our community. We envision a space where ultimately billions of people can come together with civility and optimism, to create, make friends, and share experiences. Roblox has recently been referred to as a “metaverse”, which isn’t quite how we see ourselves, but we thought it might be helpful to explain what the “metaverse” is, and how platforms, and you as parents and caregivers can help make 3D immersive spaces safe for kids and teens. 

The metaverse is not a new concept, it has been around since the early 1990’s, discussed by technologists and futurists. You may have become familiar with it as popular culture has picked up on it, the book and film ‘Ready Player One’, being a great example.There is, however, still much confusion about what it actually is. Terms like NFTs, blockchain, Web 3.0, are often used in the same conversations, but represent different technologies. They can be confusing for parents and caregivers, but the reality is, they aren’t likely to be a part of the experience your kids and teens are having. 

Virtual Reality (VR) can be an important element in some versions of the metaverse, but it isn’t essential. You can still experience very real and immersive experiences without wearing a headset, which can often be out of pocket for many people, can be uncomfortable, and take time to get used to. They are also not recommended for use by under 13’s. Relying solely on VR could actually make these spaces less accessible for all. The metaverse for us is a social place where people can create, shop, work, play, hang out and enjoy realistic entertainment experiences, similar to those you might attend in the physical world.

Considering safety in the metaverse is extremely important, we need to think slightly differently than we have before. Some of the same messages apply (and we strongly encourage you to regularly have those discussions; stranger danger, keeping your account secure, how to report things that make them uncomfortable) but there are new things to consider too. The metaverse experience is very immersive and can feel a bit like real life. Remember that there are many different experiences out there which may not be suitable spaces for younger kids –  horror games could be very frightening, and some social spaces are designed with adults in mind so your kids could be mixing with lots of strangers online. Setting some expectations around this, and having regular conversations about what they do when they’re online helps. Also consider parental controls which are available on many platforms and devices, and finally, help your kids and teens understand how they can manage their own safety, how to report and when to come to you for help!

We focus on keeping our platform safe and civil so the community’s experience is a positive one, and we continue innovating and evolving our systems to ensure our community members can connect, create, and come together in a space that is welcoming, safe, inclusive and respectful. Not all platforms have the same rules so having regular conversations about what platforms your kids and teens are using is helpful. Is it age-appropriate for them? Do they know how the different features work? 

Many metaverse platforms allow you to take your avatar with you across different experiences. Roblox is home to millions of different experiences in itself; you can play a game, hang out with friends, watch a concert and go shopping all in one sitting, and you do so as your virtual avatar, moving seamlessly from place to place. We do not allow users to cross from our platform to another, however some metaverse platforms have a vision where you will be able to in the future. With this in mind, here are some quick tips to help you have conversations about the metaverse;

  • Ask what the metaverse means to your kids and teens, and what platforms they use in this category
  • If you can, take a moment to check out the platforms they mention. You can find advice about different apps and websites here on the FOSI Good Digital Parenting site, Common Sense Media or Ask About Games
  • Set agreements with the family about what they are ok to access, and when they need to ask permission (if in doubt, ‘ask first’ is always a good idea)
  • Check that you have spending controls set up on the devices your family use, and remind your kids and teens what the rules are around buying things online
  • Reassure your kids that you are there to support them, and that they can talk to you if something doesn’t feel right. 

The metaverse brings exciting opportunities for creativity to thrive and to provide civil, fun and safe places for people to socialize, create, and learn from each other. As with all new technology, we all need to learn the skills to navigate it safely and be a positive digital citizen, and help your kids and teens to do the same.

Written by

Laura Higgins

Laura Higgins is Director of Community Safety and Digital Civility at Roblox with more than two decades of experience building proven safeguarding, online safety and civility programs. Roblox’s groundbreaking digital civility initiative is focused on providing the community with the skills needed to create positive online experiences in partnership with the world’s leading safety and industry organizations that drive meaningful change. Civility online is a new concept that’s based on existing principles—that everybody has a part to play in making the digital world a better place. 

In her previous role with the UK Safer Internet Centre (part of the “Better Internet for Kids” project funded by the European Commission), Laura founded several award-winning services including the Professionals Online Safety Helpline and the world’s first helpline dedicated to supporting victims of image based abuse. Laura has worked with the biggest names in tech sitting on Twitter and Snapchat’s advisory boards. She has spoken on digital safety topics across the globe and regularly appears in the media sharing her expertise with industry experts, parents and kids.