Is VR Safe for Kids?
A simple guide for parents and giant companies
One of my sons is turning 12 soon, a year away from the “official” age for most VR devices. I’ve been working in AR & VR (aka XR) for 30 years now, more recently helping to start billion-dollar products like the HoloLens and more. I should be keenly aware of any potential dangers of VR for kids, shouldn’t I?
But there’s a problem: This is a notoriously under-studied area, with many varying opinions. Most companies turn a blind eye, intentionally, in my opinion. They seem to think that if they put small-type print in unobvious places, like some magical rune drawn on the floor, they’ll be protected from future lawsuits. Not that they’re evidently as concerned with protecting actual kids from harm.
VR reporter and developer TonyVT has a comprehensive article on this subject. I’m going to add color and nuance, and focus on what parents, big companies, and even research scientists should do, and why.
Think of any toy or game sold in the US that has age guidance, perhaps due to choking hazards or maturity of content. The retail box and websites will often warn, in big and visible letters, this is “for ages X and up.”
So what does the Quest 2 have for visible pre-purchase guidance? Here it is contrasted with a typical game for sale. It’s a small fraction of the size.
Compare that to Facebook/Meta/Oculus’s hard-to-find official Health and Safety Warnings (online PDF), which includes these safety warnings:
Why isn’t that on the box or retail website?
Update: A Meta UX designer pointed out that the Oculus smartphone app shows a safety video which mentions the headset is “designed for 13 and up,”…