Parent’s Guide to Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is quickly becoming a household term, but the technology is moving so fast that it can be hard to keep up with all of the features and understand its use amongst kids. Many parents don’t understand what it is or what the appeal is to their child.

If virtual reality is new to you, here’s an introduction to the technology and an overview of what you need to know before you think about purchasing your child a VR device.

How Does VR Work?

Simply stated, VR is a new technology that allows users to interact or view new places in 3D, which makes it feel seemingly like real life. This technology is moving quickly and in several directions at once, but commercial VR platforms currently fall into two categories: mobile and computer/console.

Mobile platforms use a Smartphone as the screen, placed into a headset to free the hands. These systems, such as the Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR are cheaper and easier to use, with a relatively basic range of games and products available. While computer and console platforms connect a more advanced headset to your existing computer or video game console and often integrate additional controllers.

Protecting Your Child in VR

For the most part, VR games rely on the same content rating systems as other video games, so be sure to pay attention to the ratings and reviews to see what might be safe for your child.

However, it is important to note that the game experience in VR can be much more realistic than in other video game platforms, so if you want to keep your child away from excessive violent or sexual content, remember that VR enhances the experience of any game content.

Age is another thing to consider when deciding if VR is right for your family. Because VR is so new, there isn’t a lot of research into how it might affect children in the long term. However, most platforms recommend not to let children under age 12 or 13 use the product. Considering the unknown effects of VR on children, it might also be wise to limit the time a child spends with the games, as VR gaming tends to amplify the effects of any other video gaming side effects.

Buying a VR Headset: What to Look For

If you are considering purchasing a VR system for your family or child, some platforms may be better or safer than others.

Google Cardboard is one of the cheapest and simplest options, a mobile platform with an easy build-it-yourself design that is child-friendly. The Samsung Gear VR is a little more serious and includes games for kids and adults of all ages. The headset comes with a higher price tag, but is still mobile and works with Samsung phones.

PlayStation VR is a more expensive system that works with your PlayStation 4 video game console. Games on this platform tend to be for more mature teens, and are much more immersive than games on mobile systems.

Two of the most high-end VR systems, both designed for a PC, are the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. These systems are some of the priciest and require a powerful computer to run. Both platforms are designed for adults and older teens.

As VR becomes more affordable it’s likely that it will become a regular part of our entertainment experience. By doing your research you can make sure that you buy the right products for yourself, your kids and your family.