Virtual Reality

Are Virtual Reality Headsets Safe for Kids?

August 13, 2020
Kid and an adult playing virtual reality game together

Over the past years, the VR industry has grown significantly. There are now several VR headsets available to consumers to enjoy virtual reality experiences such as 360 videos or lifelike gaming. Kids love gaming, so it’s understandable that they will be one of the major consumers in this industry. But like so many products, they aren’t usually designed with children in mind and one has to ask if these headsets are safe for children to wear.

There are several reasons VR experiences might be dangerous for children. Some of them are obvious, and others, not so much.

Motion Sickness

If you’ve ever been on a ship before or even played certain video games,  you might have experienced motion sickness before. It usually comes in the form of dizziness or headaches. Motion sickness happens when there is a disconnect between what your eyes see and what your balance system(in the ear) experiences. VR experiences are designed to give you a sense of being in another world or a different place entirely. This involves tracking your head movements and displaying the corresponding view to you at that point in space.

Although this works perfectly most times, there are times it doesn’t. This causes the user to experience symptoms of motion sickness. While this just manifests as headache or dizziness in adults, it might lead to something worse in children. The children might not even recognize that there is a problem because they are having fun and would just keep using the VR headset.

Eye Strain & Fatigue

When you use a VR headset for a long duration, you begin to experience headaches, dryness of the eyes, and sometimes blurred vision. These are symptoms of eye strain and fatigue, and it means that it’s time you give your eyes a rest. Because of this, it is important for parents to monitor their children when they are making use of VR headset.

They shouldn’t use the headset for more than fifteen minutes at a time, and they should have at least a ten minutes break in between usage. That way, the symptoms of eye strain, can be minimized or outrightly prevented. Eye strain is also caused by the interpupillary distance (IPD) of the VR headset not matching that of its user, causing them to see blurry videos and images.

This rarely happens to adults, as the headsets are usually designed with adults in mind.  Some headsets come with adjustable IPDs, but most times, it is not usually enough to accommodate kids. In fact, most headsets have age restrictions of 13+ with few headsets like the Playstation VR (12 years +) and the Merge Mini (10 years +) having less than that. Some headsets like the HTC Vive even outright discourage kids from using them.

Possibility of Getting Injured

This is probably the most obvious concern for safety. Virtual reality experiences are designed to be fully immersive, leading you into believing that you are actually in a different place. Some VR experiences, especially games, involve a lot of moving around. Children while experiencing these immersions might forget that there are physical objects in the real world and run into them while trying to move around in the virtual world. This could lead to the children sustaining injuries.

So it is important for parents to monitor their kids when playing to ensure their safety. A better option would be to restrict the movement of the child by limiting the kind of games they play in. If you really want them to enjoy their VR experiences, you can look for a location that has ample room for them to move around without getting themselves injured. Gaming studios like Zero Latency in Singapore offers about 4200 square feet of space to move around and enjoy VR experiences.

Conclusion

It is probably a good idea to allow the kids to grow before introducing them to VR. But if you really want them to try it out,  there are headsets that can be used by kids under supervision such as the Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, and the Merge Mini. After fifteen minutes of use, the parents should make the kids rest for at least ten minutes before putting it on again.

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