The British police are investigating a case involving the virtual gangrape of a 16-year-old girl in the metaverse,
Though this is the first official investigation of its kind, sexual assaults on female avatars are not new in the virtual world.
Nina Jane Patel, Kabuni co-founder and a psychotherapist committed to creating a child-safe metaverse, was one of the early voices to raise awareness about such assaults and their lasting psychological and physiological damage. She had survived such an attack in 2021.
Patel shares some tips for parents on how to ensure their child’s safety in such environments and also on how to identify red flags.
Also Read: Dealing with the double-edged sword of deepfake technology
Safety first: Identifying bad behaviours
- Parents should explore virtual worlds with their children, using headsets or screen sharing to understand the environment and interactions.
- Understand platform intentions: Be aware that each platform has different purposes; some may have negative social implications.
- Monitor cross-platform behaviours: Recognise that behaviours rewarded in one environment, like gaming, might be inappropriate in more social virtual settings.
- Take reports seriously: If a child reports negative experiences, validate their feelings and take the issue seriously.
- Utilise platform mechanisms: Report and block perpetrators, using the platform’s features to highlight unacceptable behaviour.
- Demand safe environments: Encourage the development of metaverse platforms that prioritise safety, community, and long-term values consistent with those in the physical world.
- Prepare for future impact: Acknowledge that the metaverse will significantly influence future generations in ways not yet fully understood. Ensure laws are in place to handle any such cases.
- Understand platform mechanisms: Recognise that each metaverse platform has different blocking and reporting processes.
- Read terms and conditions: Carefully review the terms, conditions, and instructions provided on the platform’s website for dealing with negative incidents.
- Avoid unsafe platforms: Avoid environments without proper reporting and blocking systems, as they may not prioritise user safety.
- User responsibility: Users should take the initiative to familiarise themselves with each platform’s best practices and policy guidelines.
- Child safety concerns: Despite children’s rights to a safe environment, the current state of digital spaces often places the burden of safety on the user, especially children.