VR is a niche product, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, most of them carry safety warnings about younger children using the products.
According to the PlayStation VR manual, it’s not suitable for children under the age of 12. The Oculus Quest manual has a similar guideline and is not recommended for kids under 13.
Furthermore, the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) is currently in talks with Meta about how Oculus complies with the “children’s code”, which aims to ensure services that can be accessed by children are appropriate.
So, is VR safe for kids? Here are some of the known risks for younger children:
One of the side effects of VR is that it can cause motion sickness, headaches, nausea, and dizziness – and experts believe these effects could be worse in children.
The side effects vary greatly between adults, and it’s hard to be sure what the long-term effects of virtual reality could be, especially for young kids.
Risk of accidents
Another risk is that children are less likely to follow safety instructions, which means the headsets could cause accidents if they try to walk or run with them on.
The headsets block your ability to see your surroundings, including obstacles, which means kids could bump into things and possibly injure themselves when using them.
Using technology can cause eye strain, and this could be worse for children as their eyes are more sensitive than an adult’s.
Additionally, because the display sits so close to the eye, kids could develop eye problems much more quickly than they would with smartphones or tablets.
With some VR platforms, such as Meta’s Oculus, kids could be exposed to risky interactions if they use a third-party app like VRChat or a similar platform.
On these apps, users could be exposed to bullying, sexual harassment, abuse, graphic content, extremist talking points, or online grooming.
What’s the consensus?
Many parents allow under-12s to use VR devices for short periods of time. However, it’s not currently advised that they use them for long periods of time.
Most studies have found no cause for major concerns about VR headsets, but the long-term effects are still unknown, so it’s best to carefully monitor your children’s activity.