Your children have requested an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset because all their friends are playing one and you want to know is VR safe for kids?
Much like deciding when a child is old enough for a smartphone, there are some myths, some facts, and some risks about this topic. Let’s break down this controversial discussion of virtual reality and children.
- 1 Meta Quest 2 Age Requirements
- 2 Is VR safe for eyes? Will VR hurt children’s eye development?
- 3 Does Meta Quest 2 Effect Children’s Motor Control?
- 4 So can the Oculus Quest 2 damage Kids Developing Eyes Or Children’s Motor Control?
- 5 What about other real risks for kids in Virtual Reality?
- 6 Online Multiplayer Experiences for kids in VR
- 7 Motion Sickness can happen to children in VR
- 8 Accidentally Hitting Things in the Real-world
- 9 Weight of The Oculus Quest 2 Headset
- 10 Final thoughts on is VR safe for Kids?
Meta Quest 2 Age Requirements
The official age of use from Oculus/Facebook/Meta is 13 years old…. BUT this likely has to do with privacy and advertising to minors laws more than any other reason. Let us explore…
If you have a look at this interview, with Brendan Iribe, the original CEO of Oculus;
“We put a warning on right when you put [the headset] on and the age of 13 was something that made a lot of sense when we became a part of Facebook, their age is 13 as well. And so we just felt ‘let’s start at 13, let’s evolve the technology more, let’s build more confidence, in the health and safety side of it. And eventually, one day, we definitely want to have Oculus for kids, especially for all the educational use of this”
Facebook and Oculus Accounts Require Users to Be 13
So let me state that again, Facebook and Oculus account creation terms of service require that users be 13.
Just like you can not “legally” make a Facebook account for your child under 13, you also CAN NOT “legally” make them an Oculus Account. They will need to use your Facebook and Oculus account if you want to let them try your Quest 2 out at this time.
Recently Oculus updated their terms of service once again to state that anyone under the age of 13 even using an Oculus account is against the terms. Many people don’t even bat an eyelash at this.
Although it gets spread around a lot that your account can get banned if an underage child uses the Oculus account and it is reported to Facebook, I have not seen any reports of this ACTUALLY happening to an account. It’s just another one of those rumors in the discussion about is VR safe for kids.
But Almost all Technology Accounts Require Users to Be 13….
It is important to note here, that as with most technology on the Internet, there are some strict privacy and advertising laws around children under 13 using a service.
This is because, rightfully so, advertising to someone under the age of 13 should be regulated differently. It also has all kinds of issues with collecting information from minors and storing that on servers. These are important things to consider in is VR Safe for kids to use.
What do the existing biggest Video Game Platforms do with kids?
Epic Games, which owns Fortnite, has taken it a step farther, allowing a child account after a parent approves it, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. Many parents were concerned their kids shouldn’t be playing Fortnite due to the terms of service, so Epic spent a lot of money to allow their current approval model so kids under 13 could keep playing Fortnite. Even with this step, many Fortnite tournaments and contests still require a participant to be 13 or over.
At this time, there is no Facebook/Oculus ‘parent approval child account’ like Epic Games, so keep all that in mind if you are purchasing a Quest 2 for a kid under 13.
You can see based on the above quote from Oculus’s CEO and what others in the industry are doing about regular video games – Facebook and Oculus decided that 13 was the right age to start with mostly for legal reasons, not medical ones. Let’s continue…But what about VR and kids’ eyes?
Is VR safe for eyes? Will VR hurt children’s eye development?
There is a lot of talk on the internet that VR might not be safe for children’s developing eyes.
According to this post from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, VR will not hurt children’s eye development.
“Although there are no long-term studies, ophthalmologists agree there is no reason to be concerned that VR headsets will damage eye development, health or function. “Age limitations for VR technology might make sense for content, but as far as we know this technology poses no threat to the eyes,” said Stephen Lipsky, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist”
There is a reason we leave medical research up to doctors (at least most of us do). It is complicated terminology. There is a process for good scientific research and bad ones. Doctors generally review each other’s work many times to make sure the proper information gets out. This information can get misunderstood or corrupted if regular people start linking and quoting studies based on a few lines they read. This happens quite frequently in the VR studies that get posted online.
Near-work eye development issues in VR?
There is also worry about “near-work”. This is when a person is constantly looking up close at something like a book or smartphone, and some studies have shown that this can cause nearsightedness. So because VR is so close to the eye, this is a risk, right?
VR technology actually has an optics setup to make you think you are looking far away, not up close. So the eye actually ends up focusing far away, and it is not near-work at all. This young adult medical study backs that up. Your smartphone is more likely to cause this “near-work” issue than a VR headset because of this.
Risk Of Seizures?
Oculus has reported that about 1 in 4000 people may experience an epileptic seizure from virtual reality triggered by flashing lights. This is no different than non-VR video games or TV shows’ ability to cause seizures.
Oculus Quest 2 Causing Eye Strain and Headaches for Kids?
You also need to make sure your VR headset is in focus. If not, you can cause some eye strain. The Oculus Quest 2 allows for some adjustment of this, but the headset itself might just be too big to get a clear picture for a smaller child. A child may also not be able to tell you if something is out of focus or not.
All of this can cause headaches. Talk to your child about this and keep it in mind. If you let your child use VR, remember to keep regular appointments with an optometrist so they can monitor for any issues. Remind the child to take breaks, and look around without the headset on the head occasionally.
Does Meta Quest 2 Effect Children’s Motor Control?
This recent medical study published in Nature, “Immersive virtual reality interferes with default head-trunk coordination strategies in young children” Is the latest study to make the rounds.
In this study children and adults of various ages were given an HTC Vive headset with no controllers. The users were asked to control a basic game with only their head. Based on the study, a small number of children between 6-8 years old playing a short game, “had a slightly harder time” controlling in-game movement with just their headset than adults did.
This study was designed to get a better understanding of how the nervous system develops. Its purpose was for how possible VR therapy used with children should be designed. That is it. Do children at different ages use their eyes more, or their trunk/body more for movement? How does VR affect those movements?
It was NOT a study to talk about the risk of children in VR usage or even worse the frequently posted in Facebook groups “YOUR KIDS MOTOR DEVELOPMENT WILL BE DESTROYED IF THEY PLAY BEAT SABER FOR 20 MINUTES”. 😐
Your kids do not use their head only for in-game movements. They use controllers. Even if they did, nothing in the study says VR usage can permanently damage or harm children, just that kids rely on eye movement more than trunk movement at certain ages, and that should be considered in any possible VR therapy for children of those ages.
So can the Oculus Quest 2 damage Kids Developing Eyes Or Children’s Motor Control?
There can always be more studies in life, but the idea that VR causes damage to developing eyes is no. It is a big fat myth at this point in time.
Equally, the recently published motor control study was to highlight how children’s nervous systems develop differently, so possible future VR therapy for children should consider that. Not “VR USE DAMAGES CHILDREN MOTOR SKILLS”.
There ARE a bunch of out-of-date tech articles from 2016/2017, that are not medical studies, but opinions of some non-medical people about VR risks, when VR was brand new. These same articles also get quoted a lot in Facebook groups.
The Oculus Quest 2 wasn’t even invented in 2016. Things have changed and these articles are out of touch with the studies done since then. Of course, if you have a different opinion feel free to post a study, or share it in the comments.
We live in a society where fear of litigation and fear of technology is a very serious thing, so many VR companies will err on the side of caution.
At this time, it is my opinion you are seeing age limits in the “is VR safe for kids” debate, based on potential lawsuits, not medical or health issues. Of course, I am not a doctor, just a girl in tech, and you get to make that decision for yourself and your kids.
What about other real risks for kids in Virtual Reality?
Virtual Reality for kids will have all the same risks an adult in VR will have. Some will be more pronounced for children and it is worth discussing here. This includes things like online multiplayer experience, the weight of the headset, VR motion sickness for kids, and hitting things in the real world by accident.
To go over these points…
Online Multiplayer Experiences for kids in VR
This is a big one. Many VR games allow you to play in real-time with other players and frequently they will require that you use your voice. A game like VR Chat may seem like a fun idea for kids, but it really is the wild west in there.
In VRChat, you dress up as any one of millions of types of avatars and visit user-made worlds. Many of these avatars and worlds have adult sexualized or trolling themes. There are minimal ways to not interact with other players without using your avatar and your voice in VRChat.
Your 7-year-old could easily be talking to a bunch of 40+ year olds, who are innocently dressed up as video game characters but are *actually* discussing or even acting out sexual topics. Not so great.
Other games like Gorilla Tag, Rec Room, Echo VR, or Population One, (popular VR multiplayer games) have a fair share of adult players who are not too happy about a younger crowd playing with them.
False Information from Facebook Groups and Angry Adults
You can see MANY adults talk about their great dislike of children being in VR in Facebook groups, Reddit posts, and YouTubes.
Frequently the users presenting ‘the information’ are doing so because they “Do Not Like Playing With Kids” and no other reason.
They will be sure to scaremonger and frequently cite “studies” that talk about all the supposed dangers (That as we have discussed in this post, don’t actually exist). These people are either misinformed on this topic or they “just don’t want to be a babysitter to your kid”.
Whichever it is doesn’t matter….If your kid comes across any one of these “angry adults” in VR – they won’t hold back from telling your kid exactly how they feel.
If you are going to allow your children to use online multiplayer games on VR be prepared for them to be seeing and hearing some pretty vulgar and toxic stuff – from both adults and other kids.
There are many non-multiplayer VR experiences that will remove this risk completely if you decided that you want to let your kids play VR.
This is NOT a VR Thing – Online Gaming is Pretty Toxic
It should also be noted here, that If your kid plays ANY online gaming experience with chat or voice, they likely have already experienced this kind of stuff. That includes Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox etc.
Many parents play VR as one of their first gaming experiences and are seriously shocked to hear the stuff said online. Here is your official wake-up if that is YOU – It is not VR, it happens in all online multiplayer games with chat or voice. They will be exposed to this type of content eventually, so give them the tools on how to deal with it appropriately.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT IT. Teach them how to mute, block and report FIRST. Learn it. You will need it.
Motion Sickness can happen to children in VR
Motion Sickness in VR is a real thing.
Visually induced motion sickness (VIMS) happens when the pictures we see don’t match up with the movement we are doing. It happens to adults and kids alike, but it can hit kids particularly hard.
If you get motion sick in real life, you may in the game world, but not always. Many people who are fine on rollercoasters or boats in real life have issues in VR, at least initially. This feeling can and should go away with time.
Monitor your kids’ usage and ask how they are feeling after each play session. Limit the first few experiences to a max of 10-20 minutes and check in to see how your child feels.
Make sure to explain that dizzy and strange feelings can occur, those feelings can last even after the headset is removed, and remember to always take a break. People can and do actually throw up using VR so take it slow. I’ve also written a detailed article about some tips on helping with motion sickness feelings here.
Accidentally Hitting Things in the Real-world
There is a virtual guardian play space that is set up each time when you use your Oculus Quest 2. You basically draw on the floor where the boundaries in your room are or choose a stationary boundary where you are sitting. If you get too close to the edge of the boundary, the virtual world will dissolve and you will see a camera version of your room.
Although this can somewhat help you from running into furniture or a wall, you will likely not stop in time if you run full tilt in that direction. Nor will it stop you from hitting a ceiling fan or accidentally punching a wall unit with that priceless collectible on it.
Adults might survive running full speed into a wall with minimal issues hurt beyond their pride, but it can be a bit more damaging for a child to do so. This is an important point when deciding is VR safe for kids?
There are many broken fingers, cut hands, and smashed equipment posted in forums from adults using the Quest 2.
The VR world can be a very real feeling and leaning on a virtual table, or smashing a tennis racket a little too far is a very real risk. It is a good idea to make sure you are familiar with how the boundary system works and explain how it works to your child.
Weight of The Oculus Quest 2 Headset
The Oculus Quest 2 weighs 503g or about 1.1lbs. For comparison, the average baseball cap weighs 112g or .2lbs. That doesn’t seem like a lot for a Quest 2, but wear it for an hour and you will start to feel it. Almost all of that weight is on the front part of your face/head as well.
This is obviously going to be more pronounced in children. Remember to take breaks.
The Oculus Quest 2 strap may also not fit a small child’s head effectively, even if it is tightened to its maximum ability. This can cause damage to both your child and the headset if it falls. Be mindful of the extra weight and talk to your kid about it.
Have you noticed a theme yet? Talk to your kids about it and remember to take breaks. VR use with children is not hands off parenting.
Final thoughts on is VR safe for Kids?
You get to make decisions as a parent about using technology, the Oculus Quest 2, or any VR for kids. You should be monitoring your kid’s use of ANY technology, but VR usage with children especially requires it.
Oculus has stated that it is against their terms of service to let a child under 13 use oculus products, so that’s something to seriously consider.
If you decide to let your child use VR, know that at this time, the science states that kids using a VR headset is about the same risk as using a tablet or smartphone.
It IS very important to take breaks while using VR and to talk to your children about the actual real risks discussed in this article. Do not simply let them figure it out.
I hope this post was helpful as you try and make the “is VR safe for Kids” decision for you and your family.