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Growing up, our parents often scolded us for sitting too close to the TV. They warned us about going blind or needing glasses later on. While it’s been determined that sitting close to the TV won’t permanently damage your eyes, it can cause eye strain. This is something office workers who spend hours in front of computer screens can relate to.
The rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets as personal entertainment devices has sparked concerns among parents. They wonder if these devices are safe for their children’s vision. In this article, we will explore the potential health consequences of using VR headsets.
How do VR/AR Headsets Work?
VR/AR headsets create a sense of presence in a computer-generated world by displaying images that shift perspective with head movements. Unlike looking at objects around the room while playing a video game on a TV, wearing a VR/AR headset means that the screen is always the same distance away. This can confuse the eyes, as the brain tells them to focus on something closer, but the screen remains at a fixed distance.
The optical arrangement in VR headsets, including lenses, screens, and adjustments for interpupillary distance, field of view, and eye tracking technology, influences the immersive 3D experience.
Potential Negative Effects of VR/AR Headsets
According to Dr. Nathan Cheung, a pediatric optometrist at Duke University, one of the immediate risks of using VR headsets for kids is neck strain, considering the average weight of popular VR headsets is almost 1.5 pounds. Eye strain is also a common issue when focusing on a specific object for a prolonged period, such as a computer monitor or smartphone.
Manufacturers have issued warnings that extended VR headset use could affect a person’s ability to focus, track objects, and perceive depth. This is particularly relevant to children and their developing visual systems. However, Dr. Cheung believes more research is needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached.
Another potential issue with children using VR/AR headsets is “cybersickness,” which is a type of motion sickness associated with these devices. Cybersickness occurs due to the discrepancy between the visual information provided by the headset and the body’s sense of movement or position. People experience cybersickness differently, with symptoms ranging from headaches and dizziness to nausea and disorientation.
Dr. Cheung also highlights studies that show a correlation between outdoor sun exposure and a reduced risk of myopia (nearsightedness) in children. Spending at least two hours a day outdoors has been shown to decrease myopia incidence by 50%.
How to Prevent Negative Effects
Limiting exposure is one of the best ways to mitigate the adverse effects of VR/AR headsets on children. Similar to other types of video games and screens, time limits should be set for using these headsets. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of two hours of screen time per day. Dr. Cheung emphasizes that using a VR headset is akin to screen time and should be limited accordingly.
While some studies suggest no immediate detrimental effects on binocular vision or myopia development during short-term VR headset usage, more research is needed to understand the long-term effects. It’s important to note that these studies only examined 40-minute time periods, whereas some users spend much longer periods with VR headsets.
The Apple Reality Pro Headset
As we approach Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), rumors of Apple’s first VR/AR headset are making waves in the tech world. Dr. Cheung admits that he cannot discourage parents from letting their kids use Apple’s potential VR/AR headset, as it is not well-studied in children. The negative health effects remain uncertain.
The possible Apple Reality Pro or Reality One headset would join the market’s growing lineup of VR/AR devices, with companies like Meta, HTC, and Playstation already offering their own headsets to meet consumer demand.
Remember to prioritize the well-being of your children and moderate their usage of VR/AR headsets. Visit NokiaMA Headset Design for more information about safe headset practices.