Parents and VR: Most parents are not concerned about adverse health effects

Nov 8, 2018 by Can Olcer

The adoption of VR is growing thanks to devices like the Oculus Go, and naturally more and more kids start using VR, too. While VR can provide unparalleled experiences to kids, many parents remain aware about potential adverse effects it can have on their children. As a company that provides educational experiences, we take our responsibility seriously to make sure kids using Kosmos are safe.

Last week, we ran a survey to find out more about how parents think about using virtual reality with their kids. While the sample was small (n = 28), we gathered some interesting data and want to share our insights with you. We asked around a dozen questions, but I’m going to highlight and discuss only the most interesting data below. You can find the anonmized raw data at the end of this article.

Here’s a dive into the most interesting data:

A third of parents spend two to four hours in VR per week, whereas about a fifth spend more than ten hours in it. How many hours do you (parent) spend in VR per week?

Comparing that to their children, we can see that parents are pretty conservative with VR use. The majority of the kids only spend up to one hour per week in VR, although two parents said that their kids spends more than ten hours each week in virtual reality. How many hours do your kids spend in VR per week?

Most parents are not concerned about potential adverse effects for themselves. 50% of the parents said that they are 0 concerned, whereas all participants where concerned less than 5 on a scale of 0 to 10. The average was 1.4. From 0 to 10, how concerned are you with potential adverse effects of using VR for yourself (parent)?

Curiously, this picture looks differently when asked about their children: From 0 to 10, how concerned are you with potential adverse effects of using VR for your kids?

The concern from 0 to 10 is more or less evenly distributed, with a light skewage towards no concern (a fifth of parents said that they are not concerned about potential adverse effects for their kids). Here, the average was a little higher with 3.9.

We also wanted to know about which adverse effects they are worried the most for their kids. Which potential adverse effect of VR concern you the most (regarding your kids)?

More than half of the parents are concerned about potential eye problems of using VR. Only seven percent think that using VR can lead to negative social consequences.

Discussion

Historically, VR has been a highly niche technology and there is a lack of scientific research (and data) on potential adverse effects. While our small survey doesn’t contribute to scientific research, it tries to capture the current views and mood of parents regading this issue. Our survey found that even parents that use VR themselves seem to be conservative about their kids’ VR use. Most parents’ kids in our results use VR less than one hour per week. Furthermore, parent seem to be more worried about negative effects of VR use for their children, but not for themselves. When asked what adverse effect they worry about the most, the majority of parents said eye problems.

As mentioned, the state of scientific research on this topic is almost non-existent. Reasons for this are that VR is newly becoming mainstream, and that designing studies with kids is always hard (e.g. legal objectives, ethical considerations). This article in the Scientific American from 2016 explores some of the studies that have been conducted, but doesn’t find any research that confirms adverse effects. Another article by SkarredGhost attempts at aggregating some newer scientifc research, but comes to a similar conclusion as the Scientific American: There’s no scientifically-backed reason to believe that using VR with kids has major adverse effects.

It’d be interesting to understand why parents think VR can lead to eye problems.

Of course, we recommend to be better safe than sorry until we have more facts on the table. As with everything, moderation and common sense are they keys success. As a parent, you should regulate and monitor the time your kid is in VR (or any technology, for that matter). You have the responsibility to make sure that your kid is safe and the time spent in VR is spent purposefully. Take the time to research and try out great experiences in VR and share them with your kids.

As long as it’s used responsibly, VR is nothing short of magic!

Other findings

We also asked parents what their favorite educational experience is. While many were mentioned, Google Earth came up most frequently. Other than that, history and astronomy-related experiences seem to be popular, too (e.g. Apollo 11, Titanic VR).

Data and Bias

The data was collected in an online survey, and most of the participants found out about the survey from our Reddit post. Furthermore, we gave away an Oculus Go among all participants of the survey. While the survey was filled out by 44 parents, we only looked at the results of parents where either the parent or the kids use VR, as most of the questions were only relevant in that case. We acknowledge that this leads to a bias in the data, because one can assume that parents that use VR already view it as something positive and therefore are less strongly opiniated on potential negative views regarding VR. However, the survey was designed to get exactly this group of people’s opinions.

The anonomized raw data can be found here.