They will investigate the threats to children in the Metaverse whilst working alongside Kabuni, an organisation set up by Co-Founder and Head of Metaverse Research, Nina Jane Patel, after her experience of the potential risks that young people face while navigating the Metaverse. The researchers will also work with Childnet.
The research will focus on children aged 10-14 years-old, including vulnerable children, and will inform practice and policy on developing safe, educational Metaverses for children.
Experienced researchers from criminology and psychology, Paula Bradbury, Ruby Farr and Boglarka Meggyesfalvi, will also be working on the pilot study.
The research will employ a tech industry panel and a practice /policy panel. A video will also be produced with collaborators advising on safety for tech companies, parents, schools and other online safety education awareness groups.
Professor of Criminology at UEL, Julia Davidson, OBE, said,
The Metaverse brings with it a lot of positive features for children and young people’s cognitive, social and emotional development, but also an increased opportunity for exposure to online grooming and other forms of child sexual abuse.
Metaverse platforms are being used by children to interact with strangers online. We are already seeing instances of child abuse and meta-apps have reported experiencing daily challenges in tackling grooming, cyberbullying and suicide ideation. Online sex offenders are known to use online 2D Metaverse platforms to lure children into encrypted chat apps.”
Dr Martellozzo also expressed her concerns, “The Metaverse is the future of social interaction, and it is allowing children and adults to enter fascinating worlds. With it, however, there are risks which this study will address.”