Common Sense Report Highlights Potential Impact VR Has On Children’s Development

Common Sense, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology, have released a new report that looks into the potential impact of virtual reality (VR) on kids’ development.

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The new report, made in collaboration with SurveyMonkey, looked into what concerns and opinions parents have on VR in regards to it being used for child development. Looking into the impact that VR can have on cognitive, social, and physical well-being, including VR’s ability to shape the perspectives of young minds. As VR technology continues to develop at a rapid rate and become more widely adopted, Common Sense set out to understand the effects of children’s use of immersive technology on their still-developing brains alongside parental attitudes and concerns.

Titled ‘Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR’, the report explores a number of different areas that might be of concern to parents and developing children. Leading experts also took part in the report and are found to be advocates of moderation, supervision, and additional research as VR becomes increasingly prevalent in entertainment, education, and health care. The report also highlighted a number of positive opportunities for parents and educators to be aware of with VR technology. This includes children beginning to develop the ability to understand the perspectives of others.

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“VR is an exciting new technology that is already showing promise in teaching children important life skills such as empathy and perspective,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense. “There is still a lot to learn about VR, and we have a responsibility to parents and educators to understand how it impacts child development so
they can minimize the potentially negative effects while maximizing the positives. As advocates and researchers, we have a unique opportunity to stay on top of this emerging technology and influence its development to help kids learn, achieve better health outcomes, and enhance their entertainment.”

The methodology that was used for the report by Common Sense and SurveyMonkey was an online poll that was conducted between December 21st to 31st, 2017 among a national sample of 12,148 adults. Of those, 3,613 were the parent of at least one child under 18, and 471 indicated that they have a child between 8 and 17 who use VR. From these, the report was generated and key findings include:

  • One in five U.S. parents today reports living in a household with VR, though many parents (65 percent) say they are not planning to buy a VR device.
  • VR is likely to have powerful effects on children because it can provoke a response to virtual experiences similar to a response to actual experiences.
  • Characters in VR may be especially influential on young children, even more so than characters on TV or computers. This can be good or bad depending on the influence.
  • Overall, 62 percent of parents believe that VR will provide educational experiences for their children, and that number is higher (84 percent) among parents whose children are already using VR.
  • Sixty percent of parents say they are at least “somewhat concerned” that their children will experience negative health effects while using VR.
  • Some parents report that kids are already experiencing health issues, including 13 percent who have bumped into something; eleven percent who have experienced dizziness; ten percent who have had headaches; and
    eight percent who have had eyestrain.
  • VR can potentially be an effective tool for encouraging empathy among children for people who are different from them, although parents are skeptical: Thirty-eight percent of all parents think VR will help children empathize with different people. This number increases to 56 percent for parents of VR-using 8- to 17-year olds.

Jeremy Bailenson, the head of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, added: “While VR research is limited, parental concerns about safety are legitimate, and there are some simple things they can do now to help protect their kids, from physical protections, like setting time limits and creating a safe space for kids to sit down and experience VR, to being aware of content and talking to kids about what they are experiencing, including the difference between real and virtual characters.”

The full report ‘Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR’ is available to read online in detail. As VR technology continues to become more common in day-to-day life, we will be sure to see more reports like this one in due course. The continued study and review of the potential impact that VR has on children is an on going concern for many and further study will be required to find find all the possible impacts.

For more on immersive media in the future, keep reading VRFocus.