Child friendliness of virtual reality

The emergence of new technologies often leads to concerns about potential risks, especially when it comes to applications in VR teaching. Are there any health risks? Does it affect the development of children and young people? Are there issues to pay extra attention to young children?

This was the case with the rise of television, computer and tablet and their use at school, and that is no different with virtual reality (VR). 

Yet there are things you can keep in mind as a teacher to use VR in a responsible way in the classroom. In this blog you will find a number of tips.

Possible physical risks

With VR headset on, you usually don’t see your real environment anymore. When students look around or stand up or walk around with VR headset, it is therefore important that there are no obstacles in the room that they can hurt themselves and that there are always people without VR glasses who can keep an eye on things.

Looking at a screen for a long time can lead to problems such as myopia and poor sleep. It is therefore not surprising that some people are concerned about the use of VR headset for children, certainly because the distance between your eyes and the screen of the glasses is very small.

However, when you look through VR headset, your eyes adjust as if you look further away into your new virtual environment. Unfortunately, research into the effect of VR on our eyes is not yet available, so we cannot say anything with certainty about this. However, it is advisable to take regular breaks and to invest in good VR glasses.

Many people experience dizziness or nausea with their first VR experience. This is similar to the motion sickness that you can also experience in the car or plane and is called simulation sickness in VR. It is caused by a conflict between what you see through the VR headset and what your body perceives.

Although the VR world basically moves with your head movements, there may be a slight deviation in this. Simulation disease is usually a lot less if you use good VR glasses. Properly adjusting the VR headset can also help. If a student still suffers from simulation disease, it is advisable to stop using the VR headset.

Fortunately, you can build up tolerance for simulation disease: the more often you use VR, the less trouble you are likely to have. Nothing is currently known about the possible long-term effects of VR on the equilibrium body.

Special cases
The above advice applies to students without health problems. In some cases, however, it is advisable to take extra precautions before using VR in the classroom. For example, pupils with epilepsy who are sensitive to light flashes. Before they participate in a VR lesson, it is advisable to consult with these students, their parents and / or their doctor first.

Other considerations

Mental health
Some people worry about the psychological effects of VR. Given the short duration and teaching content of VR lessons from TeachVR, it is unlikely that there will be any negative psychological effects associated with using VR in the classroom. The chance of addiction is also very small because the students work with VR in short sessions.

As a primary education teacher in particular, you may wonder at what age it is wise to expose students to VR. Because it can be difficult for young children to distinguish the VR experience from reality, it is generally not recommended to use VR in children under 6 years of age.

This does depend on the content of the VR experience. Age advice such as with movies or games does not yet exist for every VR experience, but the VR lessons from TeachVR will not be experienced as exciting or scary in view of the educational content. However, as a teacher you know your students best, so always consider for yourself whether a VR lesson is suitable for your students.

How long?
It is advisable not to allow VR sessions with children that last too long.  But what is “not too long”? There are no specific, guidelines to the use of VR yet, but the GGD has the following rule of thumb for screen use: look at a screen for a maximum of 20 consecutive minutes, then look at a distance of at least 20 seconds and then work digitally again for a maximum of 20 minutes .

In our experience, students rarely wear VR headset for more than 10 consecutive minutes. The lesson remains an interactive process in which students consult a large part of the time, make assignments or listen to the teacher without looking through the VR headset.

Little research has been done into the use of VR by children. That is why the most important advice is: always use common sense. Many of the concerns discussed are real with fanatic VR gamers who stay in a virtual world for a long time, but are (far) less applicable when using VR teaching. We want to give at least the following five tips if you want to use VR in the classroom:

  • Take into account the age of students and do not expose (too) young children to VR;
  • Ensure that the content of the VR lesson matches the age of the students;
  • Always have students work with VR under supervision;
  • Make a VR session no longer than 20 minutes;
  • Take a short break between VR sessions and when, for example, a student suffers from dizziness.

If you keep these tips in mind, we believe that virtual reality is a valuable, fun and a safe enrichment of education. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Please contact us.