Is VR Safe For Kids? Everything a Parent Should Know (2023)
As a parent who constantly navigates the dynamic landscape of technology, you might find yourself wondering, “Is VR safe for kids?” If you’ve asked this question, you’re not alone. Virtual reality (VR) is becoming increasingly popular, and naturally, kids are interested in this immersive experience. But as exciting as entering a virtual world might be, it’s crucial to consider the safety aspects. Let’s delve into the topic, touching on key concerns like why VR is often not recommended for children under 12, how many hours of VR are safe, and what precautions you should take.
What Are the Safety Precautions for VR?
Before even considering letting your kids try VR, it’s crucial to take some safety precautions:
1. Adult Supervision
Always supervise your child during their VR experience. You never know how they might react, especially if it’s their first time. I highly recommend watching the top videos on VR to ER so you’re aware of some of the common dangers of VR.
2. Safe Playing Area
Create a safe, obstacle-free zone. The last thing you want is for your child to bump into furniture or trip over a stray toy.
3. Time Limit
Set a time limit for each VR session and stick to it. This will help in avoiding potential issues like motion sickness or eye strain. Also, most people will experience some motion sickness, so it’s best to learn how to overcome it. See my article on “How to Grow Your VR Legs.”
4. Content Appropriateness
Ensure that the content is age-appropriate. VR can be highly realistic, and not all virtual experiences are suitable for younger minds.
Is VR Bad for Kids Under 12?
Many VR headset manufacturers including Meta recommend that the technology is not suitable for children under the age of 12. Here’s a snippet from the official Meta Quest safety manual:
Designed for ages 13+
Meta VR systems are not toys and must not be used by children under 13. Younger children have greater risks of injury and adverse effects than older users. While we know that children under 13 may want to use Meta VR systems, we do not permit them to create accounts or use Meta VR systems.
Why Is VR Not Suitable for Under 12?
One of the primary reasons VR is generally not recommended for children under 12 is the issue of Interpupillary Distance (IPD), the distance between the centers of the pupils in each eye. Most adult IPDs average around 63mm, and VR headsets are calibrated based on this metric. However, a child’s IPD usually falls between 40-55mm, making the headsets less suited for their eye alignment.
As a result, children may experience symptoms like eyestrain, headaches, nausea, and motion sickness, because the headset is not calibrated for their unique IPD. While no long-term damage has been proven, professionals advise limiting exposure because children’s eyes are still developing and the effects of VR on their visual development are not yet fully understood.
Other reasons include:
- Physical Discomfort: Kids are more susceptible to motion sickness, dizziness, or eye strain, as their bodies and vision are still developing.
- Mental and Emotional Impact: The immersive nature of VR can have a stronger emotional impact on children. It can be difficult for them to distinguish between the virtual and real worlds.
- Safety Concerns: Younger kids may not fully understand the concept of a safe playing area and could be more likely to trip or bump into objects.
How Many Hours of VR Is Safe?
Most experts recommend no more than 30 minutes to an hour for any age group. It’s always advisable to take frequent breaks to minimize eye strain and prevent motion sickness.
Is VR Safe for Kids’ Brains?
This is a grey area, but research has shown that using VR headsets can have some negative, but short term effects on a kid’s brain, affecting their balance and stereo-acuity. However, the effect of VR devices on the brain long term is still unknown, especially for children.
Benefits of VR for Kids
One of the biggest benefits of VR is fitness and exercise. It’s much healthier than playing computer games all day and studies have shown that playing a game of Beat Saber is the equivalent of playing tennis or rowing.
VR has changed people’s lives with people losing hundreds of pounds.
If your kid lives a sedentary lifestyle, getting them a VR headset can absolutely change that.
How Long Can a 10-Year-Old Play VR?
For kids around this age, it’s advised to limit VR exposure to 15-20 minute sessions, closely supervised, and followed by a break. It’s also important to ensure the VR content is age-appropriate.
Is VR safe for kids? The answer is complex. While it can offer an incredible educational and entertainment experience, it’s essential to exercise caution. Parents should enforce safety precautions, time limits, and most importantly, supervise their children to ensure a safe and enjoyable virtual experience.
By being proactive and informed, you can help your child explore virtual worlds safely. Because as we know, the real world is challenging enough.