When faced with the age restrictions that manufacturers place on VR headsets, many parents wonder why the limits have been set. They wonder if there is a real danger to using VR or if the companies are setting things up in case something goes wrong in the future.
Age Requirements for VR Headsets
The age limits set in place by the manufacturers are as follows:
- HTC Vive – no age limit, but recommends that young children don’t use it
- Oculus Rift – 13+
- Samsung Gear VR – 13+
- Sony Playstation VR – 12+
Is VR Dangerous for Children?
The simple answer to this question is that nobody really knows. The Virtual Reality industry is in its infancy and experts haven’t been able to see the long-term effects of using the headsets yet. Once a child hits puberty, their overall development slows down, so any potential risk for using VR will be minimized at that time.
Is VR Dangerous for Children’s Eyes?
The biggest concern among experts is the possibility that VR is bad for eyes.
Experts who worry about VR for children point out that nearsightedness (myopia) comes from being too close to something when reading it or watching it, especially as a child. Even before the age of VR, optometrists found that there was an increase in myopia with the rise of personal computers and handheld devices. As VR screens are mere inches from the eyes, there is a reason for them to be concerned.
Other experts argue that it is the physical act of squinting that causes strain on the child’s eyes. Where they would have to adjust their eyes when reading a book or looking at an iPhone, VR technology isn’t the same. There is a depth of field and nothing seems “too close” to the eyes.
Age Appropriate VR Games for Children
Another concern among experts and parents is the intense reality that VR offers. While there is somewhat of a disconnect when someone is playing violent games on a console or PC, VR places the gamer into the virtual world, making everything seem more real.
Due to possible mental side effects in the long term, it is recommended to look into VR worlds for kids if you decide to let them try it out. They will still be able to see the effect of the VR without encountering anything that could potentially give them nightmares.
There is also the possibility that a character on a VR headset will have a greater influence on a child than someone they would watch on television. This could cause potential issues if they take harsher characters too seriously.
Positive Results From VR Usage
While there are a few things that give parents pause when deliberating whether or not to let their children use VR, there have been some positive studies done as well. As young people are interested in virtual technology, many have seen an increase in learning when a child uses VR in an educational setting.
There are several education VR programs or games that help with learning as the person is able to see an action as they hear the explanation. Since they are interested in VR overall, the information “sticks” better in the child’s mind.
There is also some evidence that VR can increase empathy in adults, though the effects on children have yet to be observed,
Minimal, Intermittent VR Use for Children
Most people agree that if a parent does allow their child to use VR that there should be strict time limits on its usage, at least until we know more about the long term effects it can have on children. Many have suggested having at least a 10-minute break for every hour of use with teenagers. You may want to limit a younger child’s usage even further.
If you have concerns about your child using VR, you may want to speak to an optometrist. While opinions vary, there are some eye conditions that may be affected through the use of virtual reality. It is a good idea to get an expert’s thoughts.