Meta Looks To Bring VR To Classrooms, But What Are The Risks

Social media giant Meta has announced that it would like to introduce Quest virtual reality (VR) headsets to the classroom experience for children as young as 13 years old.

“Of all the ways in which metaverse technologies like virtual, mixed and augmented reality could prove to be transformative, the potential they have for education is one of the most exciting,” said Nick Clegg, Meta’s President of Global Affairs.

It would allow educators to incorporate VR into their classroom lessons, including virtually traveling to different parts of the world to learn about history.

According to Clegg, VR would make learning a more interesting and fun experience for children. Instead of reading about it in textbooks, they could be transported to the time and location they are studying.

“If you’re teaching a bunch of kids about ancient Rome, just imagine what fun it is to walk with the whole class through the streets of ancient Rome together,” said Clegg.

In preparation, Meta announced last fall that it would be placing VR equipment and resources in 15 U.S. universities to help teach different skills.

As with all things Meta-related, potential dangers are lurking behind using VR in the classroom. First and foremost, the overall safety of the students is an issue.

The British National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reported that pedophiles often use VR to lure and exploit children. To protect children, Meta would have to create settings to ensure predators cannot contact them.

According to a scientific paper written in 2021, VR could physically affect children. Looking at 85 studies, it was concluded that children could be susceptible to obesity and sleep disorders.

Childhood obesity is already on the rise. Hooking them up to VR could make things worse.

In a time where everyone is online, skeptics state that adding VR to the classroom would result in a lack of face-to-face interaction. Many children already have hours of screen time a day, whether it be from television, iPads or cellphones, which could cause damage to the eyes.

There is also the question of parental consent. Some parents might not want to expose their children to VR. If that is the case, it raises the concern of how these children would learn and if they would share the same experiences as their peers.

Children may also find it difficult to differentiate real situations from those made virtually.

“Children, at a young age, have difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction or fantasy,” said Michael Madary, a postdoctoral research assistant at the University of Mainz in Germany. “You could imagine putting them in VR—that inability to distinguish could be exaggerated.”