Rising VR Grooming Threat: How Can Parents Protect Kids?

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    Virtual reality (VR) headsets are becoming increasingly popular among adults and children. These are part of the augmented reality environment and areEnables a more realistic and immersive experience”.

    VR provides a gateway to computer-generated 3D worlds and games with a variety of environments and interactions. This is sometimes loosely referred to as the “metaverse.”

    Most VR headsets have The minimum age limit is 10 to 13 years old by safety concerns Augmented reality technology in general, and VR headsets in particular.

    But VR is increasingly being used by young children as well. preschool age. These immersive technologies make it difficult to monitor children's physical and emotional experiences and who they interact with. So what is the danger and what can you do to keep your children safe?

    good and bad points

    VR allows children to immerse themselves in a digital world and assume the role of different characters (avatars). Thanks to the abundance of stimuli, VR can give the illusion of actually being in a virtual location. This is called “.”virtual presence”.

    Then, when children interact with other people in the virtual world, a sense of psychological reality increases. These experiences can be fun and rewarding.

    However, it can also have negative effects.Children tend to have difficult to distinguish What happens in VR and what happens in the real world.

    as a child identify with your avatarthe boundary between them VR device is blurry When playing in the Metaverse.

    Children can even leave behind traumatic memories while playing in virtual worlds. The immersive nature of VR allows you to feel as if your child's avatar is truly “real”.

    Although research is still lacking, it is known that children form memories from virtual experiences, meaning that sexual abuse that occurs virtually can develop into sexual abuse. real world traumatic memories.

    The rise of “cyber grooming”

    Research shows that online predators use a variety of grooming strategies to Manipulating children into sexual relationships. Therefore, offline encounters may occur without the parents' knowledge.

    Non-threatening grooming strategies to build relationships are common. Perpetrators may use friendship strategies to build relationships and trust with children. Then the child will see the person not as a stranger, but as a trusted friend. As a result, prevention messages about strangers learned through educational programs are ineffective in protecting children.

    Recent meta-analysis It turns out that online sex offenders are usually acquaintances. Naturally, some adult predators pose as peers (i.e., other children or teens).

    Sexual approaches by adults occur more commonly on platforms widely used by children. According to British police statistics, the crime of “sexual communication with a child” 84% increase From 2017-2018 to 2021-22.

    The hidden nature of cyber grooming makes it difficult to know the true extent of the problem.Several According to a European police report: Approximately 20% of children have experienced sexual solicitation online, and up to 25% of children report having had a sexual interaction with an adult online.

    Regarding the Europol report, the following is shown: Children are drawn into erotic role play online. In interviews with researchers, some parents said that also shared anecdotal experiences Children exposed to sexually explicit acts on social online gaming platforms like roblox.

    Such encounters have the potential to create memories as if the virtual experience had actually happened.

    It is important for parents to know that cyber groomers are familiar with the use of the very popular virtual world. These provide predators with anonymity and easy access to children, where they can lure them into sexual involvement.

    Parents need to experience VR themselves

    Recent reports from Internet Watch Foundation Charity A record number of young children are reporting being manipulated into performing sexual acts online.

    Through the Metaverse, a sex offender can be virtually brought into a child's bedroom and perform sexual acts through the child's VR device. As the world of VR becomes more immersive, the dangers to children will only increase.

    Grooming occurs in places where parents do not expect it. To reduce this risk, parents should be aware of the following: online grooming patterns – Isolate the child, build trust, ask him to hide the relationship, etc.

    Recognizing the signs early can prevent abuse from occurring. However, this can be difficult if parents are not familiar with the technology their children are using.

    Parents should familiarize themselves with VR and the Metaverse to help their children understand what they will experience in an augmented reality environment.

    When parents experience and experiment with VR technology themselves, they can have a conversation with their child about the experience and understand who their child will interact with.

    This allows parents to make informed decisions and take appropriate protective measures. These safety measures include reviewing each platform's parental controls and safety features, and proactively knowing what their children are playing and who they're interacting with.

    With these safety measures in place, parents can enjoy VR headsets while protecting their children.

    If you believe your child has been targeted for grooming or exploitation, or if you have come across exploitative material, you can report it by: think or contact your local police.

    If you are a child, teenager or young person and need help or support, please call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

    If you are an adult who experienced abuse as a child, call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or Visit their website.

    Marika Guggisberg does not work for, consult, own shares in, or receive funding from any company or organization that might benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations other than an academic appointment. has not been made clear.

    /Courtesy of The Conversation. This material from the original organization/author may be of a contemporary nature and has been edited for clarity, style, and length. Mirage.News does not take any institutional position or position, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the authors.


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