Young people are facing sexual violence in virtual worlds and big technology companies need to be held accountable for their safety, the nation’s online safety watchdog has warned.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said she was fearful about the emerging technologies being developed by large corporations to power the metaverse without thinking of the safety implications and believed young people needed to be involved in online policy decisions.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant,Credit:Edwina Pickles
The “metaverse” broadly refers to virtual worlds on the internet and can include the use of virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses.
“Imagine the risks to children of wearing an Oculus [virtual reality] headset where a parent can’t look over their shoulder, can’t know what they’re seeing or experiencing,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“Let’s say they’re wearing haptic suits where they have full sensory feeling across their body – these are hyperrealistic, high sensory experiences.
“Simulated sexual assault has happened in the metaverse and can happen in the metaverse.
“We think that online games are gory now, think about what that experience would be like when you are wearing a full sensory haptic suit.”
She said a sense of “technology exceptionalism” had allowed large companies to operate largely unregulated throughout the world.
“We need the world and other governments around the world coming together to counter the might, the wealth, and the stealth of the technology giants,” she said.
The eSafety Commission has launched a youth committee, comprised of 24 young people from across the country who will advise the government on online safety and emerging threats like the metaverse.
Ms Inman Grant said it was important that the people at the “coalface” of the internet get involved in shaping internet safety policy.
Sonja Vujanic is one of 24 young people who will advise the government on online safety.Credit: Oscar Colman
University student Sonja Vujanic, 18, is one of the members of the new council and said she was inspired to apply after experiencing firsthand the powerlessness young people felt during the COVID-19 pandemic around influencing policy.
“I’ve seen this increased reliance on the internet for education and social relationships during this stressful time,” she said.
Ms Vujanic said social media platforms remained the most common danger for young people online, where cyberbullying is rife.
“For me [cyberbullying] was an ever-present scenario during school,” she said.
“There are so many people in a school community, but everyone knows each other and rumours can spread so quickly.”
She said adults often had little idea about the dangers children are exposed to through commonly used communication apps.
“When you use messaging platforms there aren’t many restrictions about who you can talk to,” Ms Vujanic said
“There was a population app called Kik when I was in Grade 6, it was something everyone used to use.
“You would have random strangers talking to you and messaging you.”
She wanted to see increased awareness of the ways young people can report instances of cyberbullying, image-based abuse and illegal and restricted content.
Ms Inman Grant said there was a huge disparity between the digital awareness of parents and children.
According to an eSafety Commissioner survey, 62 per cent of young people had seen what the commission would define as “harmful content” online, which includes things like eating disorders, promoting suicidal ideation, drug-taking, and violent pornography.
“But parents were totally disconnected and did not have even a glimmer of the same awareness about what their kids were experiencing,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“Parents really aren’t understanding how online abuse or the sharing of intimate images will really affect a young person.
“We might think well toughen up sweetheart, this is just happening online, but online is a child’s entire world.”
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article