Understanding Safety Risks and Safety Design in Social VR Environments

Qingxiao Zheng, Shengyang Xu, Lingqing Wang, Yiliu Tang, Rohan C. Salvi, Guo Freeman, Yun Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding emerging safety risks in nuanced social VR spaces and how existing safety features are used is crucial for the future development of safe and inclusive 3D social worlds. Prior research on safety risks in social VR is mainly based on interview or survey data about social VR users' experiences and opinions, which lacks "in-situ observations"of how individuals react to these risks. Using two empirical studies, this paper seeks to understand safety risks and safety design in social VR. In Study 1, we investigated 212 YouTube videos and their transcripts that document social VR users' immediate experiences of safety risks as victims, attackers, or bystanders. We also analyzed spectators' reactions to these risks shown in comments to the videos. In Study 2, we summarized 13 safety features across various social VR platforms and mapped how each existing safety feature in social VR can mitigate the risks identified in Study 1. Based on the uniqueness of social VR interaction dynamics and users' multi-modal simulated reactions, we call for further re-thinking and re-approaching safety designs for future social VR environments and propose potential design implications for future safety protection mechanisms in social VR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number154
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW1
StatePublished - Apr 16 2023


  • online harassment
  • safety design
  • safety risks
  • social virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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