Months later than rumored, Meta's Horizon Worlds is opening its doors to younger teens. The company is making its metaverse space accessible to teens aged 13 to 17 in the US and Canada in the weeks ahead. Unsurprisingly, the company is promising "robust" safety measures and parental controls — it wants to be sure the experience is age-appropriate, and the gradual rollout will help it gauge how well those protections are working.
Teens' Horizon Worlds profiles will be private by default, and won't automatically show locations or active statuses. They won't see unfamiliar adults in their "people you might know" lists. Age ratings prevent teens from creating or using mature content, and a "voice mode" garbles the voices of anyone that isn't following back. These younger users will also get safety tips while they're in VR.
Parents can use the Meta Quest app or Family Center (now available for Horizon Worlds) to control features like personal boundaries. They can also allow or block apps, track usage and see who's following who. All users can cast their VR view to an external screen, so a parent in the room can see what's happening.
The strategy closely reflects Meta's approach to teen safety on Facebook and Instagram. That won't necessarily please everyone. Senators have urged Meta to keep teens off Horizon Worlds over concerns the company's safeguards may be inadequate. They've noted that Meta's own research revealed harm to some teens, and that other virtual spaces like VRChat are prone to predatory and toxic behavior.
There's plenty of pressure on Meta to expand, however. The social media giant has struggled to pivot to the metaverse, and continues to lose billions investing in the Reality Labs unit behind Horizon Worlds and Quest headsets. A wider teen audience could boost Horizon's audience and spur the market for VR hardware.