What par­ents need to know about VR

The hottest tech in videogames is vir­tual re­al­ity. Find out its po­ten­tial ef­fects on kids be­fore buy­ing a head­set.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By CAR­O­LINE KNORR

EVERY­ONE who’s tried it agrees: vir­tual re­al­ity is mind-blow­ing. Once you strap on that head­set, you truly be­lieve you’re strolling on a Parisian street, ca­reen­ing on a roller coaster, or im­mersed in the hu­man body ex­plor­ing the in­ner work­ings of the oe­soph­a­gus.

But for all its cool­ness – and its po­ten­tial uses, from ed­u­ca­tion to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR af­fects kids. Com­mon sense Me­dia’s new re­port, Vir­tual Re­al­ity 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-au­thored by the found­ing di­rec­tor of stan­ford Univer­sity’s vir­tual Hu­man In­ter­ac­tion Lab, of­fers a first-of-its-kind over­view of the ex­pand­ing uses for the tech­nol­ogy and its po­ten­tial ef­fects on kids.

now that VR de­vices from in­ex­pen­sive view­ers to game con­soles to full-scale gam­ing ar­cades are fi­nally here – with lots more com­ing soon – it’s a good idea to start think­ing about how to man­age VR when it comes knock­ing at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other me­dia can give you the sense of “be­ing there” – what’s called psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­ence – but not to the ex­tent that VR can. This unique abil­ity is what makes it so im­por­tant to un­der­stand more about the short- and long-term ef­fects of the tech­nol­ogy on kids. Here are some of the key find­ings from the re­port.

Even though we don’t yet have all the an­swers to how vR af­fects kids, we know enough to con­sider some pros and cons. And whether kids are us­ing vR through a mo­bile de­vice like Google Card­board, on a con­sole like the Playsta­tion vR, on a fully tricked-out desk­top rig like the Ocu­lus Rift, or at a mall ar­cade, these guide­lines can help you keep any vR ex­pe­ri­ence your kids have safe and fun.

Pay at­ten­tion to age rat­ings. Check the rec­om­mended age on the head­set pack­age and don’t let younger kids use prod­ucts de­signed for older kids. The min­i­mum age isn’t based on med­i­cal proof of ad­verse ef­fects on the brain and vi­sion, but it’s the man­u­fac­turer’s best guess as to who the prod­uct is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Be­cause the vR game ex­pe­ri­ence can be more in­tense than that of reg­u­lar games, it’s even more im­por­tant to check re­views to make sure the game­play, the con­tent and the sub­ject mat­ter are ap­pro­pri­ate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few pre­cau­tions: Once you have the gog­gles on, ori­ent your­self to the room by touch­ing the walls; stick to short ses­sions un­til you know how you’re af­fected by vR; stay seated if pos­si­ble; move fur­ni­ture out of the way; and have a sec­ond per­son as a spot­ter.

Pay at­ten­tion to feel­ings – both phys­i­cal and emo­tional. If you’re feel­ing sick to your stom­ach, dizzy, drained, or sad, an­gry, or anx­ious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about ex­pe­ri­ences. since vR feels so real, it’s an ex­cel­lent time to talk through what your kid has ex­pe­ri­enced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the dif­fer­ences are be­tween vR and reg­u­lar games, and how vR helps you con­nect to other peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ences by putting you in some­one else’s shoes.

Find op­por­tu­ni­ties; avoid pit­falls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic ex­pe­ri­ences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as us­ing vi­o­lent weapons. On the other hand, take ad­van­tage of vR that ex­poses kids to things they wouldn’t nor­mally get to see, feel, and learn, such as vis­it­ing a for­eign coun­try.

Keep pri­vacy in mind. De­vices that can track your move­ments – in­clud­ing eye move­ments – could store that data for pur­poses that haven’t yet been in­vented. — Com­mon sense Me­dia/Tri­bune news ser­vice

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. — TNS

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