A Parent’s Guide To Virtual Reality

Virtual reality video games are now a possibility and parents should know more about them before letting their kids play. While VR is the newest video game technology, it’s something we haven’t been able to bring into our homes before until recently. VR provides users with a three-dimensional experience created by computer simulation. Users put on a whole headset that has a single screen in it for the 360-degree experience. Users then use accompanying hand controllers to explore the world around them.

It takes some practice and coordination. VR is a really cool experience and since it is the newest video game trend, parents should know more about it. Even if you don’t have VR in your home and don’t plan on getting it, your kid’s friends or some family may have one. These games are the future and chances are your child will have access to one in the near future.

These games and virtual experiences allow for so many worlds to be explored from the comfort of our homes. Schools may even soon incorporate VR into their curriculum and use it as a tool. There are regular video games available and there are also real places around the world to explore. Some VR experiences are educational and can be a great teaching tool.

Seeing really is believing, and if you’ve tried VR, you know how realistic it is. It isn’t flying cars futuristic, but walking through a video game world is pretty cool. The downside is that it can be disorientating for some. Or even just cause too much anxiety. Children don’t have fully developed brains, so it’s possible that kids can have a more difficult time separating reality from VR.

Is VR Safe For Kids?

kid doing VR
Via pixels.

It depends on how old your child is, but yes, VR is generally ok for most kids depending on their age and development. The youngest age that VR games target is children as young as 7 years old, but other recommendations say that 12 years old or even 13 years old is a better age for VR. This is the age recommendation for most companies that make VR headsets set and there is a reason for that.

VR is as immersive an experience you’ll get at home. It can be intense. It can be scary and uneasy at first. Younger children may be overwhelmed in this virtual world. It can be a lot to take in, and younger kids may find themselves scared. Older preteens may be better equipped for VR due to their maturity level.

VR is a more physical experience than a regular game that you play on TV. A player holds their arms out for some time playing these games doing actual motions which can be unmanageable for young kids for long amounts of time. Age is another factor for the headset which is also made for more mature heads. The headset may be too large for kids under the age of 12 years old.

RELATED: Children Experience Virtual Reality Differently Than Parents, Here’s How

There Are No Known Medical Issues, But It Hasn’t Been Studied

young girl doing VR
Via Pexels

When it comes to actual health and safety, there are no known health effects from VR to children, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any risk. 60% of parents do have some concerns when it comes to VR and the effects it may have on their child. There have been some ill effects on younger kids who have played. Common Sense Media reported the results of a poll they did on families whose children have played VR games.

  • 11% of kids experienced dizziness
  • 10% had a headache
  • 8% had strained their eyes

Looking at the medical science of it all, there is no science currently available. There is a significant lack of data available for the effect of VR in children. There have been no studies done yet. Science ABC reported on a mice study that showed that the neurons in their brains shut down when exposed to VR. There is not yet any link between this in mice and humans yet.

However, experts are worried that early exposure to VR could negatively impact brain development in kids. There are also concerns that kids won’t be able to identify if their eyes are in distress and when to stop gaming. Ophthalmologists have warned that staring at any device with a screen for long periods of time can cause strain or fatigue in the eyes. This can happen with any screen, but VR hasn’t been tested to the same extent as, say, a TV screen.

When you’re literally strapping a screen to your child’s eyes, screen time is something to consider. If you do get a VR system, start VR games in small increments and only in older kids where the headset fits.

Source: Common Sense Media, VR Bound, Science ABC

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