Report – Understanding Kids in the Metaverse
- Kids use the metaverse for play.
- Kids showed us during the pandemic how they want to use the metaverse – when they hit a barrier they’d figure out a way to hack it.
- Children’s media needs to be consistent in putting children over and above profits.
Host Gary Pope began today’s session by using four questions to define, discuss and discern what’s next in the metaverse.
1. What is it?
David Kleeman answered that we don’t know what it is and it’s not here yet. However, if we don’t talk about the way we want it to exist, we run the risk of letting other people develop it for us without kids in mind and then we will have to go back in and fix it. David has found kids using the metaverse for continuous play over platforms so he sees a priority in lowering the frustration barriers for kids in the metaverse.
2. Why is it important?
Anna Rafferty clarified the question to ask, why is it important now? Additional realities haven’t been on the children’s media agenda for a decade. Anna finds that the idea of interconnectivity combined with the maturity of talent has made the metaverse relevant. It’s going to be important to kids so it’s going to be important to children’s media. Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE added that the investment potential in the metaverse is important. The investment by smart, energetic people into the metaverse to help children with the complicated problems in their lives is vital.
An obstacle to the metaverse becoming a space for all is poverty. Technology that depends on an expensive digital infrastructure will be a source of new kinds of inequality. Sonia advocates for very targeted programmes to overcome the digital access gap and provide child-specific pathways, so that children can bring their ethos to participate and enrich this environment.
3. What could possibly go wrong?
This question points to the very binary view that media currently used for the metaverse. Anna has found it helpful to ask ‘What could go right?’ as a way to incentivise innovation. The media has to start with a design that prioritizes safety and privacy not only for children but for all vulnerable populations.
The audience asked: Will it create people who don’t understand the real world? David has found that children bring their real world into the game as they play. After lock-down, screen- time dropped off to pre-pandemic levels, once children were able to more fully participate in their “real” lives. They start with play and evolve the play to talk about everything in their lives. Sonia added that the reverse is also true, children share their gaming tips and insights with their relationships in the real world. So their world is extremely permeable. Anna has not found anyone advocating for a 100% meta space for children – additionally, designers can create a space with natural breaks that doesn’t have addiction at its core. This is why children should be agents in the space.
4. How do we use it?
Sonia advocated for using the metaverse to capture the diversity of interest, passion and talent that children naturally bring with them into their spaces. David hasn’t found that the metaverse necessarily needs a massive world. It has been successful as an event space, but people don’t go to the metaverse every day yet. Anna thinks the metaverse is rich in content creation opportunities and as a storytelling mechanic.
SVP, Global Trends
Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE
London School of Economics
Professor of Social Psychology
VP Digital Consumer Engagement