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Children's Security and Privacy at Risk While Using VR Headsets

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By Christian Webster - - 5 Mins Read
A child wearing a virtual reality headset
Featured | Shutterstock

Enter the world of virtual reality and explore a universe of endless adventures. However, beware of the hidden dangers that may lurk around the corner.

As children immerse themselves in VR, concerns about their privacy and safety increase.

A recent study revealed that many parents are not yet aware of the security risks associated with VR, including the privacy issues that may arise from using VR headsets.

Few parents are taking active steps to address these security and privacy issues, and they're not using apps' built-in parental controls.

“We've seen more children using VR apps with social elements, raising VR security risks like unintentional sharing of personal info,” says Abhinaya S B, a co-author of the study.

The researchers conducted interviews with 20 parents whose kids use VR apps. Their objective was to comprehend the parents' perspectives regarding the risks associated with VR and the measures they take to safeguard their kids' security and privacy.

The primary concern of parents is their children's physical health and interaction with negative influences on the internet.

Anupam Das, another co-author, adds, "Parents fear children might disclose too much to strangers online."

However, most parents aren't aware of VR headsets privacy concerns related to data surveillance or collection by VR companies and developers.

Das mentions, "VR captures lots of user data, from height to medical conditions." Voice recordings are also collected, raising concerns about potential misuse. Despite this, only one parent expressed concern about voice recordings.

Abhinaya notes, "Most parents know about data surveillance but aren't worried about VR security risks." They're more concerned about self-disclosure in social VR apps.


Boy wearing a virtual reality headset inside a house
Photo | Jessica Lewis/Unsplash


Parents were actively engaging in conversations with their children about managing VR security risks and emphasizing the importance of online safety and not sharing personal information.


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Many parents shared VR accounts with their children to monitor their kids' VR app usage and foster a sense of transparency and accountability. However, despite the fact that built-in parental controls were available in VR technologies, only a few parents effectively used them.

Abhinaya observed that although most parents were aware of these controls, some hesitated to activate them. Some parents attributed this hesitation to feeling outpaced by their tech-savvy children, particularly teenagers, and thus granted them more autonomy in VR usage.

Others faced technical challenges, which contributed to the underutilization of these crucial safeguards.

Das echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that some parents struggled with properly activating the controls. Moreover, parents wanted parental controls to encompass additional features, such as providing summaries of their child's app activities and interactions.

Parents consider it their responsibility to protect their children from VR security risks, but they also believe that VR companies should implement user-friendly parental controls.

They recognize the importance of collective action in safeguarding children online and call for policymakers to keep up with emerging technologies to create or modify laws that protect children's online privacy, especially in light of growing concerns about VR headsets' privacy.

Additionally, parents urge schools to take an active role in educating children on navigating these immersive technologies safely, thus minimizing VR security risks.

Das emphasized the necessity for parents to gain firsthand experience and understanding of VR to grasp the associated security and privacy risks.

While parents serve as the frontline defense against VR security risks, educators, developers, and policymakers must collaborate in taking proactive measures to ensure comprehensive protection in VR environments, effectively addressing VR security risks.

In today's digital age, virtual reality (VR) is becoming an integral part of children's lives, raising concerns about privacy and security risks associated with VR headsets. Despite the evident risks, parents may not be as vigilant as necessary in monitoring their children's VR activities.

As children delve deeper into immersive virtual worlds, safeguarding their privacy and security emerges as a paramount concern for both parents and regulators. Failing to address these risks could potentially expose children to various threats lurking within the virtual realm.