Facilitating Parental Insight and Moderation for Social VR 

University of Glasgow researchers, Dr Mohamed Khamis (Computing Science) and Dr Mark McGill (Computing Science) have been awarded $75,000 from Facebook Reality Labs to devise a project to build the future of connection within virtual and augmented reality. The project, ‘Facilitating Parental Insight and Moderation for Social VR’ will be funded until September 2025.

Objectives of the project

As affordable, consumer-oriented mixed reality headsets find their way into the home, it becomes increasingly likely such technology will be used by children and adolescents. Social VR is likely to become increasingly popular among adolescents given the role social experiences have played in smartphone adoption and usage.

Where a new disruptive technology has entered the market, parental (referring to parents and guardians) understanding, supervision, and controls have typically lagged, leading to a window where children and adolescents experience unsupervised access to new technologies. Historically there have been examples where this lack of safeguards has led to children experiencing new forms of bullying, harassment and abuse, often unbeknownst to parents. 

As it stands, social VR experiences typically lack any sophisticated mechanisms for parental control over what is being experienced, or insight (either in real-time or after-the-fact) regarding what was experienced. The ‘Facilitation Parental Insight and Moderation for Social VR’ project hopes to understand and address how the social VR experience can be used in a parental supervised manner to safeguard younger users.

The impact

Through surveys, user-centred practice and co-design, this project will explore the potential for parental control and insight over the child and adolescent social VR experience, providing children with a parental safety net that is not overly obtrusive to privacy, nor overwhelming for parents to understand and use.

The project will address the gap in understanding:  

  • How parents might moderate and limit the social VR experience, informed by prior practice in 2D/social web platforms. Social VR could offer a safe platform for self-discovery and expression when growing up, and there is a tension between protecting children whilst avoiding stifling this growth / freedom of expression that needs to be explored. 
  • What parental insight regarding current/past experiences is acceptable, and how such insight could be generated and consumed. Insight is important because parents and guardians can help children process traumatic or difficult experiences and inform use of parental moderation controls. 

In this way, UofG researchers will develop approaches that will better protect children and adolescents whilst retaining some degree of privacy and agency, and assuage parental doubts and fears regarding adoption of social VR by these age groups. Funded by Facebook / Meta Reality Labs, these objectives will be explored by Pejman Saeghe (RA) and Cristina Fiani (PhD student, Social AI CDT).