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Child safeguarding and immersive technologies

Outlining harms to children in virtual reality and the metaverse

Publication date September 2023

Immersive technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offer children incredible opportunities. They can also put children at risk of child sexual abuse (CSA) and child sexual exploitation (CSE).

We commissioned Limina Immersive to research the risks in emerging technologies to help us identify how these risks might effectively be mitigated.

The research included interviews and focus groups with experts in emerging technologies, a literature review, primary data collection through visits to virtual reality platforms and additional desk-based research.

Based on the findings, and with support from Limina Immersive, the NSPCC has developed recommendations for government and industry on how to ensure children can remain safe in the metaverse.

Authors: Catherine Allen and Verity McIntosh

Key findings

Risks to children are present, and evolving

Offenders are using immersive technology to groom, coerce, sexually abuse and exploit children.

Further findings

  • Abuse can happen solely within a virtual reality (VR) space.
  • Perpetrators can use VR space for grooming leading to offline ‘real life’ offending.
  • Immersive technology is being used by perpetrators to simulate sex with 3D models of children.
  • Technology companies are failing to prioritise child safeguarding on their platforms.


“Virtual reality and the metaverse have the potential to be a monumental hurdle for law enforcement, criminal justice, and the safeguarding of vulnerable people."

Specialist covert UK law enforcement officer
Child safeguarding and immersive technologies: an outline of the risks
Download the report (PDF)

Supplementary paper on key concepts

We’ve published an additional guide to the essential concepts and technologies to be aware of when thinking about child safeguarding in extended realities (XR), such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

This paper provides:

  • a glossary of terms and definitions of key concepts such as the metaverse, interoperability, and decentralisation
  • industry culture and dominant values that shape the architecture of the metaverse
  • insight into which technologies are being used by children.
Child safeguarding and immersive technologies: key concepts
Download the report (PDF)


Please cite as:

Allen, C. and McIntosh, V. (2023) Child safeguarding and immersive technologies: an outline of the risks. London: NSPCC. 

McIntosh, V. and Allen, C. (2023) Child safeguarding and immersive technologies: key concepts. London: NSPCC.