Experts Say Virtual Reality Assault Case Shows New Risks for Kids Online

( – Video games have come a long way since the days of the Sega Genesis and Nintendo systems. Today’s youth are playing with newer technology, including immersive games through virtual reality systems such as Oculus. However, a case in the UK is drawing attention to the dangers that it could pose, especially for children.

Authorities in the United Kingdom are now investigating a sexual assault case. But there’s a catch. The assault didn’t happen in real life, but inside a virtual reality game. A girl under the age of 16 logged into a game, and her character was assaulted by multiple men. The girl alleges that the experience caused psychological trauma similar to if the event had happened physically.

A complaint lodged in 2023 led to an investigation by British authorities. However, it creates some murky waters for law enforcement because the characters in the game are driven by human users, but the actions aren’t necessarily physical, though there’s no doubt they can have an emotional and psychological impact. One attorney who works in social media law, Matthew Sarelson, spoke with Fox News Digital and said that in order to prosecute any incident in virtual reality, there would likely need to be a real-world implication—such as other users compelling a victim to commit a real-world act—to have any legal ground.

This girl isn’t alone, either. There have been multiple other events of sexual assault reported in the virtual world, where characters have been groped or forcibly assaulted against their will. It raises the question of whether the legal framework needs updating to address the issue or if it’s simply a matter of exercising caution when playing.

In the United States, lawmakers have already brought up the issue and asked the Federal Trade Commission to engage its authority to protect children in the metaverse, but it’s not likely to lead anywhere fast. In the meantime, it’s important for parents and guardians to keep a watchful eye on what types of games their children access and limit access where necessary.

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