Many children may be asking Santa for virtual-reality headsets this year, but is it safe for them to use? Many VR gadgets have minimum age requirements, raising the question:
It is advised that users be at least 13 years old to use the Oculus Rift or Samsung’s Gear VR headgear, while Sony’s PlayStation VR is aimed for those 12 and over. According to HTC, the Vive isn’t made with kids in mind, and they recommend keeping the device out of the hands of minors. Google also recommended that children under 13 only use the Cardboard headgear with adult supervision due to its low-tech nature.
Companies have provided little justification for these suggested ages. What does research have to say about this, then? Director of the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Marientina Gotsis, says not very much.
More than half of the neurons in a brain area related with spatial learning shut down when in VR, according to a 2014 study in rats by researchers at the University of California. It’s not obvious what this implies for people, but the researchers say it shows the need of studying VR’s long-term consequences.
Gotsis speculated that virtual reality might have an even greater effect on children’s growing brains. Virtual reality (VR) and other forms of entertainment technology are used in her center’s studies of mental and behavioral health. She has experience with child-oriented virtual reality applications, but only in stifling lab conditions.
She warned that long-term use of ill-fitting gadgets might have detrimental effects on young people’s developing brains because of the brain’s extraordinary plasticity at that age. Children “may lack the reflexes to remove the gadgets if they find them unpleasant and may not comprehend how to signal eyestrain.”
However, as she went on to explain, the safety of VR depends not only on the age of the kid using it, but also on the kind of device, the material being seen, the length of time spent in VR, and the amount of time spent in VR.
Vision Virtual Reality
The potential dangers of virtual reality technology to children’s eyes is a major issue. Many parents have warned their children against gazing at screens for too long, fearing that it could permanently harm their eyesight. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that there is no evidence to support this concern.
Virtual reality headsets of today trick the brain into seeing depth by showing each eye a slightly different picture on a flat screen. What this implies is that the eyes don’t really concentrate on anything in the virtual distance, but rather, they converge on a point somewhere in the real world.
According to optometrist Peter Howarth, “some experts think this is the reason some individuals develop symptoms while seeing 3D stimuli,” including STARLINKTV, film, and headsets.
Howarth, however, argued that the only people who would have negative consequences like headaches and eyestrain are those who have poor eye movement and control to begin with.
Although it is likely that VR headset makers have conducted study in this area, Howarth claims that no academic studies have been conducted to explore the effects of VR on children’s eyes.
So, there is not enough research to say for sure if VR really is unsafe for children, despite the claims.