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Report – The Ethics of VR – Inside a Child’s Virtual World

Posted on: Wednesday 05 July 2017 6:08pm by Bethan Cook

Journalist Stuart Dredge moderates this afternoon’s session dedicated to understanding how children between the ages of six and twelve interact with Virtual Reality. What does it mean to children? How should they use it? What impact does it have?

Takeaways:

  • VR is still somewhat of a sensitive subject in the children’s world
  • VR and AR have become useful tools in educating children
  • VR creates a gap in the market, and offers experiences that are more immersive and social than ever before
  • Propositions to create rest breaks whilst using VR to promote a healthier, non-addicted lifestyle (unlike traditional gaming)
  • Various issues regarding the length of time children should be using such devices

Detail:

Leading the panel’s discussion, Stuart Dredge reminds us that VR is seldom talked about enough in relation to children. He noted that 84% of the public have easy access to inexpensive VR headsets, such as Google Daydream. As a result, he believes that such products need further consideration, given that they are widely available to young markets.

Dr. Dylan Yamada-Rice has spent the past nine months exploring how children between the ages of eight and twelve interact with virtual reality experiences. Her research opposed the common mind-set that digital technology encourages children to be antisocial. In her study, VR was proven to be a predominantly social experience for children, as they became easily absorbed in less realistic visual aesthetics, and more interested in content that allowed them to imagine, experiment and create things that are impossible in real-life.

Prof. Mark Mon-Williams has been following the lives of 13,500 children who use VR, monitoring their mental and physical health, educational attainment, and wellbeing. He found that VR actively improves the lives of children, and has the power to “educate children about healthy lifestyles, geography, history, and even encourage a positive attitude with regards to mental health”. In spite of this, he claims that there are still various key issues to address, most notably relating to how VR can be seen to disrupt the nervous system, having an impact on balance and navigation. As a result, he believes children should use VR in small doses.

Marc Goodchild, Head of Digital Strategy and Product at Turner Broadcasting, had just the solution for Mark. He saw the huge opportunity with VR to impose new functions in order to create a more immersive, social, yet safe experience with children. His VR model (based on ‘Adventure Time’) implemented a parentally controlled ‘time-out’ every ten minutes, to reduce possible motion sickness and allow children to schedule much-needed breaks; something he believes other VR producers should impose.

Richard Kinning of Turner Broadcasting asks the first key question to the panel, positing if children are becoming too easily accustomed to virtual, unrealistic worlds. Prof. Mark Mon-Williams believes that this is due to the fact that children are able to adapt to artificial environments more easily, something the other panellists agreed with.

Bethan Cook

About the author

Bethan Cook

Journalist and Blogger

Bethan is a final-year undergraduate working towards a BA (Hons) Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. She has a keen interest in children’s media, and used it as a means of inspiration for her dissertation, entitled ‘The Gender-Specific Influence of Violent Cartoons on Children’. She was fortunate enough… Read more

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