Opinion: Will the Metaverse Hijack our Kids?

The Old Man

The Metaverse will be designed to be more immersive, more time consuming, and more addictive than anything that has come before

The next generation of the internet, the Metaverse, will be a total immersion experience that will be even more compelling and addicting than what we experience now. In the world of marketing, addiction is a good thing. It means customer retention. It means all advertising can be focused on the new customers because once they try it they’re hooked — it worked for the tobacco industry.

Consider this preface to a selection of games.

The games here are addictive beyond reason, making users yearn for one more click, one more turn, or one more virtual life. No matter what time it is, no matter where we’re supposed to be or what we’re supposed to be doing, these games can keep us in our chairs for days at a time, locked away with our screens and controllers just tripping the hours away. Addiction in a game form awaits your download.”

This statement represents the goal of gaming companies right now, but with the advent of the Metaverse, the user dons a virtual reality headset and steps right into the game and becomes part of the action.

In the world of gaming, addiction isn’t a warning — it’s a selling point.

Considering how much time children already spend in front of a screen right now, makes the enhanced internet, the Metaverse a bit scary.

  • Ages eight to 10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen, kids
  • Ages 11 to 14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen, and youth
  • Ages 15 to 18 spend an average of seven-and-a-half hours per day in front of a screen — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Technology advances rapidly, but is every advancement good for society? There is always the promise of how much better our lives will be with new technology. Advances in education are always touted. When I first learned of virtual reality as an educator, I imagined virtual reality field trips for schools. Instead of just reading about the Revolutionary War classroom could visit a real battlefield to see firsthand what war was really like.

Great educational potential exists, but in reality, technology is developed where business finds the most profit potential. Before the internet, a person seeking pornography had to venture into the back corner of a liquor store to find a small selection of magazines. Today pornography is readily available on any screen. Thirty-four percent of all internet downloads are pornography. Do we really need easy, free access to more pornography? Internet development and the upcoming Metaverse development will go wherever companies can make the most money. 

The technological development of consumer applications will follow the money. I do not expect to see virtual reality field trips anytime soon, but virtual reality games and virtual reality sex is right around the corner. The gaming industry has figured out the formula required to hook kids, and they are guaranteed to double down on their internet success with even more addictive gaming in the Metaverse.

Technology may be advancing but not all advancement represents progress for humankind.

“Modern people have already come to believe that the world “out there” is somehow more interesting than the daily here-and-now.”

Is escape from reality the new goal? If a kid is spending nine hours a day in front of a screen which world represents reality. That much screen time is also robbing our kids of other healthy pursuits. I grew up playing outside with friends, interacting with real people, in real-time. I only came indoors when my parents gave me no other choice. A sedentary life in front of a computer also contributes to childhood obesity which has reached epidemic proportions in the US. There is a mental downside to too much screen time as well.

There is a growing mountain of evidence suggesting that young boys and girls are exhibiting addictive behavior. Why? Largely because of extensive exposure to (unregulated) screen time.
Research on video games shows dopamine (present in reward processing and addiction) is released during gaming and that craving or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings.

Modern video games are action-packed, high-paced with ever-changing screens and player point of view. Real-life does not measure up. School especially pales in comparison to blasting aliens and the instant gratification of simple goals, racking up points and passing level after unending level.

The classroom is not equipped to compete with the gaming world right now let alone the Metaverse gaming world to come. One teacher presenting information to thirty students in a quiet classroom is becoming a real bore to many students who spend so many hours on-line. Students have a hard time adjusting back and forth between real life at school and their virtual life at home. Studies show that viewing high-paced, violent entertainment in the first few years of life is strongly associated with ADD and ADHD by age seven.

If you want your child to succeed in school limiting gaming time may be crucial, essential step. Let’s face it, placing limits is not an easy thing to do because it takes 24/7 monitoring and as parent’s we are cast into the role of gaming police. When our children were young, well before video games, we felt television would be detrimental to success in school. I knew I would be a failure at monitoring what and when our kids watched on TV. So we made the decision to not have a TV in our home until our kids reached high school.

Signs of gaming addiction

  • Preoccupation
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Increasing tolerance
  • Failure to reduce or stop screen activities
  • Loss of outside interests
  • Continuation despite negative consequences
  • Lying about the extent of use
  • Use to escape adverse moods

Recommended Limits

“Prolonged use of watching TV, video games, scrolling through social media — all of that use acts like a digital drug for our brain.” — Kathryn Lorenz, MD

Up to 6 months old: no screen time

6 months to 2 years old: use screen time only for interactive social play with an adult or to video chat with loved ones

2 to 5 years old: no more than one hour of screen time

School-aged kids: no set time limit, but parents should limit social media use and gaming

“We want to still encourage an hour a day at least of physical activity,” Dr. Lorenz says. She recommends face-to-face play with other kids, reading books, playing non-video games, playing with toys, and learning life skills, like cooking with parents — all without screens.

Long-term Effects

In children, effects of screen addiction may include:

  • Speech delay
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Difficulty with problem-solving and creative thinking
  • Cyberbullying and exposure to predators
  • Bodyweight issues and poor bone health due to lack of physical activity, which later in life can add up to heart disease and other health conditions
  • Depression and anxiety

While technology is always advancing at a rapid pace not all advances are good for our children or society as a whole. Businesses can always to counted to seek out the most profitable avenues for development, but those avenues may not be in the best interests of your children.

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Looking for solutions to improve our world. I write about politics, education, climate change, and any issues important to average Americans struggling to survive in a world gone mad.

Chico, CA

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