by Kristina Murkett
Thursday, 24
February 2022
Debate
07:30

Parents are right to be terrified of the metaverse

The platform is already being used by perverts and sexual predators
by Kristina Murkett

The metaverse, the ‘future of the internet’, has already proven itself to be a paradise for perverts and sexual predators. There are stories of users being virtually gang-rapedmasturbated at and harassed. There are no age verification checks, leaving children free to mix with adults, and making exploitation inevitable. One NSPCC researcher posing as a 13-year-old girl witnessed grooming, sexual material, racist insults and rape threats; she was invited into a virtual strip club, shown sex toys and condoms, and watched avatars simulate sex.

It’s easy to label the metaverse dystopian — a technological nightmare of unfiltered human depravity run by Silicon Valley supreme leaders who are more interested in profit than protecting minors. But the problem with calling it dystopian is that it creates a false sense of distance. A dystopia is only an imagined state, often in the far future, a hypothetical manifestation of society’s fears and anxieties.

Yet we are already living in a world dominated by technologies that are designed to be as addictive, anonymous and dangerous as possible. Take the example of Yubo, a social media app terrifyingly nicknamed ‘Tinder for teens’, which has almost 4 million users. One undercover reporter, posing as a 15-year-old girl, was frequently asked to send nude pictures, propositioned for sex, witnessed rape threats, heard discussions about suicide and saw a black girl being asked if she could be called a “dirty little slave”. Only last week a convicted sex offender locked a 14-year-old girl in a car and sexually assaulted her after meeting her on a Yubo livestream only hours earlier.

Or the example of Roblox, a crossover between a social media platform and an online gaming service, where users can create and play games together. By its own figures, 67% of its users are under the age of 16, 29% are between 9- and 12-years-old and 25% are under 9. Yet Roblox is full of sex games, called ‘condos’. Even legitimate games include inappropriate sexual language, and the safety features simply can’t keep up.

Other people may think twice about having children because of climate change, but personally I am far more terrified about protecting future children from these digital threats. As a teacher and form tutor, I see everyday the relentless battles parents have with their teenagers over technology: the 13-year-old who became so angry when his phone was confiscated that he would hurl things across the room; the 17-year-old who spent so much time online during lockdown that he wasn’t eating, sleeping, or leaving the house; the 11-year-old who confessed to me that he was being sent hardcore porn over his class WhatsApp group.

The metaverse may seem shiny and new, but it is simply a different medium for dangers that already exist and we already ignore. One of the key aspects of any dystopia is the normalisation of the previously unacceptable, and yet we already see this desensitisation everywhere. We are bringing children up in a world where it is ‘normal’ for almost half of female MPs to be sent online death and rape threats; ‘normal’ for girls to be asked for nudes by up to 11 boys a night; ‘normal’ for self-harm to be ‘revered’ on social media and a third of grooming cases to be conducted on Instagram. The dystopia is already here.

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Walter Morgan
Walter Morgan
4 months ago

There’s always been something creepy about that Zuckerberg bloke. He’s no Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Facebook by whatever names it’s given is parasitical. Apple and Microsoft, even Google do genuinely offer products and services of real value. All this mataverse stuff looks and sounds like nonsense for the gullible. At least when I was a teenager we only had Oz. I bought one copy which was clearly rubbish and moved on. I hope the meta verse gets short shrift; I expect though that it won’t.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
4 months ago

If children sit in their rooms for hours and hours, looking at screens, playing with expensive electronic toys, talking to ‘friends’ in New York, avoiding family meals, living on snacks from the fridge, the parents have a right to be worried. In fact, we should all be worried.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Hikikomori, they are are known as Japan’s “lost generation” or “invisible youth”. Stay in their bedrooms, lost to the outside world, consumed by the internet. It is going to get a lot worse.

To allow the internet/Meta to children is same as allowing them heroin and crack.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago

“a technological nightmare of unfiltered human depravity run by Silicon Valley supreme leaders who are more interested in profit than protecting minors.”

Profit is not an issue. It is just Satan working through his earthly servants to destroy all which is good, to unleash every depravity which would have been thought excessive in Sodom and Gomorrah, in order to corrupt utterly.

Zucker, Gates, Dorsey, Bezos – just look into their faces, they are not normal humans. How such 4 people rose to be the most powerful in the world; the most powerful at changing the social, cultural, moral, condition of mankind, and how they appear to be so utterly unlike normal people, is more than a coincidence.

John Murray
John Murray
4 months ago

I don’t understand yet how the metaverse is not just an MMO with updated graphics and minus the magic and monsters to kill. Better off just playing World of Warcraft.

Peter LR
Peter LR
4 months ago

The Social Dilemma on Netflix digs into teenage phone addiction very thoroughly; it is disturbing.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I saw in the late 1980s, when cell phones were out – how bad they were going to be. By the 1990s I know they were a very bad thing indeed – not so much then as merely a telephone, but still not a good thing – but it was 100% apparent the direction they were taking. That is why I never allowed myself to own a cell phone. I have never sent a text, I cannot use a smart phone, I will not.

Gateway drug – and now that phone you sheep clutch every hour of every day is fentanyl, and it is devouring you, and stronger versions come out every year….

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
4 months ago

What a disgusting development of the West’s cultural evolution!
The wealthy sickos who invent and propagate this filth and create opportunities to pervert children are the very people who will succeed in destroying several thousand years of civilisation, culminating in the recent democratic era (which is in its death throes). They’ve made a damned good start so far.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Julian Pellatt

you may be 100% sure they protect their children from it though.

Xavier Villanueva
Xavier Villanueva
21 days ago

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