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November 29, 2021

At What Age Can Kids Play VR (And Why is There an Age Limit?)

Should children be using something like the Oculus Quest 2?

Oculus Quest 2 Designed for ages 13+, PSVR for 12+

According to the Facebook safety center, the Quest 2 is designed for people aged 13+.

All major VR headset manufacturers are giving similar age guidance. For instance, Playstation’s PSVR is recommended for ages 12 and up. Why is this? Let’s go over some reasons why you might be concerned about somebody younger playing VR.

Potential Problems With Kids and VR

I’m not a parent or a Dr. I’m just a VR enthusiast who recognizes some common-sense problems young kids will experience with VR. These are the things that might give me a little bit of pause before giving a Quest 2 to a child.

1) Extremely Graphic / Violent Content

When I was a kid, parents were worried about letting their kids play Mortal Kombat. The reason is that the game sometimes showed some very cartoonish-looking blood if you got a good hit in.

Fast-forward 30 years, and things have gotten 1000x more graphic!

VR video games can be so realistically violent that even I start to feel uncomfortable (and I’m 37). And that’s to say nothing of porn… Which is even more extreme than the violence.

If you’re going to let your kids use VR, you should probably be closely monitoring the content they’re consuming. Luckily, you can stream what they’re looking at to your TV via Chromecast if you want to see what they’re seeing in real-time.

2) Physical Safety (of Your Kid)

I’ve accidentally punched my ceiling, floor, and nearly every wall in my home playing VR. This is despite being an adult paying close attention to the guardian boundary.

VR devices let you set up a guardian (an imaginary line in VR that keeps you in your playspace). But, VR is such an immersive experience that a child might lunge past it. And not respecting the guardian boundary can lead to serious injury.

I’ve also seen kids fail to use the wrist straps properly. My friend’s kid accidentally threw the controller across the room at full speed (it smashed into a wall and not a person thankfully). So watch out for that as well.

3) Physical Safety (of Others)

I live alone. Meaning I don’t have little kids, dogs, or cats freely roaming around my house that can step in front of my VR setup and accidentally get punched in the face.

Suppose you have a kid that’s not very careful, mixed with a bunch of pets or younger siblings. In that case, somebody walking into the VR playspace and getting seriously injured is a high-probability event.

Quest did come out with a “space sense” feature to attempt to alert you if somebody walks into your space. But, as of right now, it’s definitely not a failsafe solution to this problem.

4) Sketchy Communities With No Supervision

I feel like all generations deal with this when a new technology emerges. I vividly remember being 13 years old, getting access to AOL 95, and immediately entering a chatroom to talk shit to strangers. Should I have been allowed to do that? Probably not.

VR offers a similar experience. Only instead of a chatroom, you’re likely going to be actually talking to other people playing the same game as you. I have to mute most games because hordes of unsupervised kids are saying insanely inappropriate stuff.

And while I simply get annoyed by it and mute everyone. Children may not have the sense to do that. They could be getting bullied or worse in there and it feels a lot more personal in VR than on a message board due to the immersion of the experience.

5) Not Made To Fit Your Kid’s Head / Interpupillary Distance

Interpupillary distance (IPD) is how far apart your eyes are. And VR headsets will come with an adjuster to get the lenses the correct distance apart to match your eyes. However, suppose your kid’s eyes are closer together than the IPD adjuster can go. In that case, they’re going to be looking at a very blurry screen. Which may not be great for them.

The same thing goes for the head strap. If your kid has a small head (compared to an adult), the strap might not be tight enough around their head.

6) Motion Sickness

This one isn’t specific to kids, as I’ve met plenty of adults who have gotten motion sick playing VR. Heck, I’ve gotten motion sick when I’ve attempted to play flight simulator-type games. And that’s not something that happens easily to me.

Just be aware that something like this can easily happen when you first get introduced to VR.

7) The Unknown (Will it Affect a Child’s Cognitive Development, Coordination, etc.)

How does VR affect your child’s cognitive development? Are there benefits? Are there terrible side effects?

I wish I could tell you a definitive yes or no. VR has really only come about in the past few years, so there’s not much settled science on this subject yet.

What I can tell you (from first-hand experience) is that playing VR is NOT like playing an SNES or Playstation, etc. When I first got into VR, I remember feeling extremely tired every night. Feeling like I just worked my brain to exhaustion in a way I never had before (and I’m 37).

What does that mean? Is it good, is it bad? I don’t know. Not enough research has been done (that I know of). That said, I definitely see it as a plausible concern.

Conclusion

I’m not a parent (just a VR enthusiast), so I can’t really end this with an “I’d let my kid play VR at age BLANK.” That said, my general guidance is that I’d try to avoid letting kids younger than the age requirements get super into VR. Particularly hours of unsupervised VR (for the reasons mentioned above).

The problem you’ll face is the Quest 2 is becoming a trendy Christmas gift in 2021. Your kid’s friends will start playing it, and then your kid will want one. This will likely open pandora’s box (because VR gaming is a lot of fun).

These little conundrums are why I’m glad I’m not a parent! Good luck out there!

Shaun Poore worked as a professional software developer for 15 years before transitioning into content creation and digital product businesses. Shaun's currently focused on providing as many people as possible with actionable advice and tools they can use to succeed online, without the fluff or BS that too often plagues this industry.