Christmas is just around the corner and as families gather to celebrate with loved ones, chances are the kids (and some adults) will spend a lot of time during the holidays immersing themselves in virtual reality.
As virtual reality becomes one of the most popular items on many Christmas wishlists, parents are being advised to familiarise themselves with the potential risks of VR, considering how the headsets have become more mainstream gaming devices over the years.
Kate Edwards, acting associate head for child safety online at National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said, “Parents who may be thinking about purchasing a VR headset for their child this Christmas need to be aware of the risks young users currently face when given access to what, at this stage, is an unregulated world.”
The NSPCC went on to outline a list of tips that parents can use to keep their kids safe when using VR:
- Make the headset a family activity, taking turns and playing with it together
- Take some time to explore the headset yourself before allowing a child to use it
- Familiarise yourself with any safety features, such as parental and privacy controls
- Talk to children about how they use VR and ensure they know not to share personal information
- Set healthy boundaries when it comes to play time
Tech and legislation for safety
Edwards went on to add that the responsibility, “Should not just be on parents. Tech companies must do more to ensure the safety of children on existing products, as well as for ones they roll out in the future. And the government needs to deliver a robust Online Safety Bill that accounts for advancements in technology and ensures new devices and platforms are created with child protection at their heart.”
Dr. Romesh Angunawela, founding partner at OCL Vision told Sky News that it’s also worth remembering the physical strain VR can have on kids as well, urging them to avoid extensive VR usage as it can have a negative impact on their eyes. “Every 20 minutes, they should give their eyes a breather, either by closing them for 20 seconds or by focusing on something at least 20 feet away.”
Although the NSPCC’s poll shows that one out of five parents were willing to buy a VR headset for their kid, more than two-thirds of the poll result believe that protecting kids is likely not a priority in the metaverse. Apart from being a headset that’s used for gaming, VR is also an integral part of the metaverse, a shared online space that many see as the future of the internet.