Child Care: Is VR Safe For Children?
As child care providers, you may have seen how quickly children become glued to a digital screen. First, there was the smartphone with its addictive gaming apps, then we saw tablets with its larger screen where children can play games or stream videos, and now, we see children becoming fully immersed inside a virtual world through VR headsets.
I remember when I was young, and I might be showing my age here, we didn’t have this kind of technology and we spent most of our childhood outdoors. But now, as we are seeing a growing number of VR headsets on children, and this looks set to continue with the VR market set to be worth $15.6 billion (approx £12 billion).
What Are The Concerns?
One of the concerns that have been brought up by parents and experts is how the prolonged exposure to VR headset amongst children can affect their eyesight.
Martin Banks, Professor of Optometry, Vision Science, Psychology, and Neuroscience at the University of California told Digital Trends, “There is pretty good evidence, particularly among children, that if you looking at something up close, like reading a book up very close or looking at a cellphone, that it causes the eye to lengthen and that causes the eye to become near-sighted.”
Nearsightedness (also known as short-sightedness or myopia) is where objects close to the eye appear clear, but objects further away from the eye appear quite blurry. According to one American study, shortsightedness grew from 25% amongst those between the ages of 12 to 54 in 1972 to nearly 42% in 2004. That’s a steep rise and there’s a ton of evidence which links this trend to the increase in screen time.
Another concern is the child’s mental well-being. There is a lot of research which state that smartphone and digital technology usage is linked with depression and anxiety in children.
Even there is no solid evidence of this as of yet with VR technology since it is fairly new, this shouldn’t be ruled out.
What Do The Medical Experts Say?
According to an article by Eyecrew, children must take a 10-minute break every hour to minimise the “development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation caused by improper blinking.” This follows closely in line with warning messages found on Nintendo 3DS which encourages video gamers to take breaks after extended periods of gameplay.
The same article by Eyebrow also advised that when letting children use VR headset, it needs to be adjusted properly. “The small focusing lenses must be adjusted properly in order for the user to see the screen clearly and comfortably. The separation of the lenses must be placed to match the distance between the user’s eyes (interpupillary distance). If not properly adjusted, the eyes will have difficulty maintaining alignment, further increasing eyestrain.”
Are All VR Headset Suitable For Children?
Since VR technology is fairly new, many companies are playing it safe by putting age restrictions. Both the Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR headset have placed a 13+ rating on the product. Whereas Sony’s Playstation VR has advised that its device should not be used by children under the age of 12. Only HTC’s Vive does not specify an age limit but does warn against allowing younger children to use it.
If you’re caring for a child, then be sure to double check with the child’s parent to ensure the VR device has the correct setting. If, for any reason, they may not know if VR device is properly set up, then it is best to find an alternative activity for the children that you are caring for to do. It might be wise to discuss with the parent on the usage of the VR device.
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Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think children should be using VR devices? Please let us know in the comments section below. We’re always happy to hear your views.