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4 Reasons Not to Get a Meta Quest 2 for Kids

And why you might do it anyway.

Oculus Quest 2 sitting on red background
The nearly two-year-old Quest 2 is still a fantastic device, but it's not designed for younger kids.
Scott Stein/CNET

When it comes to tech gifts for kids that don't cost more than $300, a few options come to mind. An iPad. A Nintendo Switch. A Chromebook. Maybe an RC car or a robot. For many people, the answer's an Oculus Quest 2 (now called the Meta Quest 2). There's only one problem: It's not designed for kids under 13, and I wouldn't recommend it for them either. Even though Meta has promised additional parental controls for Quest 2 devices, and they won't need a Facebook account to use starting in August, there remain plenty of concerns around safety, both in terms of physical play and online interactions.

Meta, formerly Facebook, has developed its virtual reality headset into a unique gaming console. It's an excellent product, and there's nothing else quite like it, especially at this price. Just keep in mind that the Quest 2 isn't the kid-friendly system you might think it is. (Although, if you're anything like most of my friends and family, you'll probably get it anyway.)

The Quest 2 is an amazing doorway to immersive experiences, and it can be a device you share with kids under supervision if you're in the same room with them. But as a parent and someone who's used the Quest 2 regularly, I can't recommend it as a dedicated kid's device for several reasons.

First, even Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn't consider the Quest 2 appropriate for children. When I spoke with him about my concerns and questions in 2021, he said, regarding the possibility of a kid-focused VR headset or software ecosystem, "I think it's probably quite a ways off that we'd really build something like this."

My concerns over how Meta and other app developers handle behavior in online VR communities also looms large. While this is true in many non-VR apps, too, toxic behavior in virtual worlds is real.

However, there just isn't anything else like the Quest 2 to choose from right now. The age of VR goggles that work with phones is long gone. Nintendo did make a VR kit for the Switch, if you can find it on sale somewhere, but it was more toy than tool. The PlayStation VR is still fun, but it's full of wires, and at this point I'd wait until the PSVR 2.

My reasons for steering parents away from the Quest 2 as a gift for kids are below. But if you need further convincing of how much Meta itself doesn't consider the Quest a device for kids, read its safety policies page.

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The Quest 2's parental support is still embryonic

"As you know, in order to use this, you sign in with your Facebook account. That way you can have all your friends there and have the kind of social experience that we're trying to build. But you can't have a Facebook account if you're under 13," Zuckerberg said to me last year. Some of this is changing now that the Quest 2 has added some parental controls and is getting accounts that don't require Facebook hook-ins, but Meta's still assuming any account is for someone aged 13 or older. 

We haven't tried Meta's new account system yet, which will be available in August, so it's hard to tell how it'll differ. You can put multiple accounts on a single Quest 2 headset, but those accounts don't necessarily function like kid accounts you'd have on a Switch, Xbox or iPad.

Parental controls do finally allow some blocking of particular apps including the Quest browser. It can be set to ask permission to buy apps, and can track what apps are being used. But, again, the settings are assuming your teen is 13 or older.

It's pretty standard with other game consoles to have multiple player profiles, and also kid accounts that allow certain online features to be locked down. The Quest 2 simply doesn't have all these options yet. Which brings me to another issue…

Oculus Quest 2

You can keep an eye on what your kid is looking at using the Oculus phone app, and casting to it. But there aren't any other kid profile settings.

Scott Stein/CNET

Monitoring or turning off chat and filtering content is difficult

Much of VR is a solo experience, but going online in social apps and games can throw you into a weird mix of people along with conversations that frequently aren't censored. With poker games, social hubs like AltspaceVR, Rec Room and VRChat, and esports like Echo VR, you can expect lots of strangers. I keep my kids' game console chat controls pretty locked down, but you just can't do that easily with the Quest 2.

Meta's social worlds space, Horizon Worlds, is meant for ages 18 and up. Again, this hasn't stopped lots of people who sound like kids from showing up in spaces like these.

And let's talk about content: There are plenty of Oculus games that are full of graphic violence or horror and are rated for adults only. Plus, there's a full web browser that has no content filter settings. You could literally view anything (including VR and 360-degree video content, some of which is definitely only for adults.) The new parental controls help with this as far as app-blocking goes, at least, but it's not necessarily intuitive.

Read moreAs Facebook Plans the Metaverse, It Struggles to Combat Harassment in VR

Safety: You could trip, or hit something or someone

VR is a high-motion situation where games ask for lots of movement and hand-swinging. Setting up a boundary for your VR play, called a Guardian, happens when you turn on the headset. This boundary-setup process recognizes if there are obstacles in the way, and shows you them in black-and-white using the Quest's passthrough cameras. But after that, there's no sense of where obstacles might be. The Quest 2 doesn't have collision-detection or object-avoidance awareness like a car or a robot might, so you could hit someone in the room by accident, break a lamp, trip over someone or something or, even worse, punch your hand into a wall. I set up my play areas very carefully with plenty of extra room near walls, and I stay away from others. Kids likely won't be so careful. 

The Quest 2 is slowly adding more experimental features: one, called Space Sense, overlays real-world outlines of objects into VR as you play. Always keeping the Guardian playspace boundaries on can help too, but these overlays can also get distracting during games. Meta hasn't figured out the truly next-gen way to handle this yet.

VR isn't vetted for young kids (yet)

Is VR even safe for younger kids? We don't really know, and Facebook is punting on the issue. But Zuckerberg also points to how the Quest 2 headset isn't weighted or optically aligned for smaller heads and eyes. 

"The device is designed for people who have a certain IPD (interpupillary distance) range, how far apart your eyes [are]. And different things like the weighting of the device are designed for people who have a certain amount of neck strength, for example. So not small kids, but at least people in their teens and adults. Those are things that I think will have to be overcome before you design even just hardware that I think really makes sense for younger kids to be wearing for an extended period of time," Zuckerberg said.

I feel eye strain and fatigue when spending more than an hour in VR with a Quest 2. And I've noticed that the headset doesn't fit well on my kids' heads: My 9-year-old needs to prop the headset up a bit when looking at VR. I only let him use it for a few minutes at a time, always supervised.

Keep an eye out for possible skin reactions

There's also a wild card: Facebook found that a small number of people experience something resembling an allergic skin reaction to the Quest 2's foam face coverings. The reports prompted the company to include silicone covers in-box or offer free covers online. No one in my family has had rashes or reactions, but you can get sweaty playing VR games. I'd recommend keeping a few clean spare foam faceplates and silicone covers for general hygiene.

You could use it as a family, though

I've let my kids play VR occasionally, and let them see some amazing videos or simulations. I create a safe and empty area that's close to me, and while I let them use it, I cast the VR video to my phone using the Oculus app. That lets you watch what they're watching, and make sure it's appropriate. Unfortunately, there aren't any good controls on the phone app to easily guide someone else through an experience, which means I still need to rely on their own gameplay judgment. 

I wouldn't feel comfortable giving a Quest 2 to a kid under 13 to use on their own. That hasn't stopped many people I know from doing just that, many of whom have said the Quest 2 has been a lot of fun. That doesn't change the fact that Facebook needs to build better parental and account controls and add better safety measures into the Quest 2 before I'd consider it a great kid gift. If you want to get one, just be prepared to accept the above concerns and figure out how you'll solve them in your household. You may completely disagree with me, but if you're considering VR for your kid, these are good things to keep in mind.