Virtual reality may impact kids differently from adults, according to medical news outlet Medical Xpress. Very little is known about the effects of immersive virtual reality for adults. Very little is also known about how this type of system impacts young children’s sensory-motor skills. Immersive virtual reality interrupts the process of sensory integration. This is what guides posture and movement. This is still not fully developed in children this young. Immersive VR interrupts a child’s default coordination strategies. This is according to scientists, and this needs to be considered in developing VR rehab protocols for kids.
The VR Experiments For Kids
We need to know that immersive virtual reality may disturb a child’s default coordination strategy. Jenifer Miehlbradt is wary of this. Children’s coordination for trunk and head movements is still developing, so differences from adults are expected. For younger kids, coordination of torso and head movement is improving, so differences with adults are to be expected.
In every experiment, the children showed control skills similar to adults in using the head. They had problems using the torso to control the two games, unlike adults. In both experiments, kids show control skills like adults when using kids heads. However, they have difficulty controlling the two games when using their torso, not unlike adults. When asked to align children’s torsos to virtual lines, younger children consistently overestimate how much they are moving. They then try to compensate by moving their heads.
Children were asked to align either their head or their torso to the line displayed in various orientations in the first activity in a virtual landscape. Alignment errors and head-torso coordination were then measured. The kids are asked to play the two games wearing the VR headset with the motion sensors mounted on the back. Children are asked to play two video games while wearing a virtual reality headset and a movement sensor on their back.
Difference Between The Kids and Adults
This research was spurred because adults had no problem with the physical challenges and movements required by VR. However, kids simply cannot seem to pull it off. A major problem is that children reported fewer negative effects from the same visual experiences compared with adults exposed to the same VR. They realized that their virtual reality trunk experiments might reveal something about how the nervous system of children is developing. And there was no research on children’s effects on virtual reality headsets in the literature. They looked at children aged between six and ten years. The basis for that discovery was based on differences in upper-body coordination in adults and children.
The multi-year study contradicts an ontogenetic model that has been dominant over the last 25 years that describes upper body coordination development. It describes it as a one-way transition from strict checking to dissociation of head-torso systems. And that the control of posture is basically mature by the age of 8.
The EPFL study goes against the ontogenetic model describing the events of higher body coordination that has dominated for the past 25 years. This predicts a one-directional transition from rigid control to a decoupling of the head-torso system. And that postural control is actually mature at 8 years. Given that kids are exposed to VR and gaming for longer than just a few minutes in real life, studies must also look at the effects on the kids psychological development. These includes findings from psychology and neuroscience. This is because the youngest users are not fully developed mentally and neuro physiologically.
While they suggest that immersion can enhance students sense of presence, motivation, and attention within the VR world, their study results provide no convincing evidence that playing these types of games influences particular cognitive components.
VR For Pre Schoolers?
Over the last decade, global leader Jakki Bailey, who studies kids virtual reality, has tested virtual reality systems with hundreds of pre-schoolers (ages 3-6). So far, Jakki Baileys findings indicate that, even at low doses, VR leaves more of an impact on kids than comparable experiences on television or other media. It also indicates that kids struggle more to differentiate between the virtual and real worlds than adults. Because VRs primary focus on realism, immersion, and presence may affect kids, these findings could last. And adults role in contributing to real-world-disconnecting is crucial.
The novelty of a VR environment seems to overload a child’s brain, making them pay less attention to internal cues. In a 2014 study of rats, researchers from the University of California found that neurons in the area of the brain associated with spatial learning behaved very differently in the VR environment compared with real ones. Over half of the neurons were switched off during the VR experience.
The researchers concluded that avatar type could influence the way humans perceive their virtual environments. But only if they feel bonded with their virtual bodies. Adults stated they felt the two different avatars were equally real. They also felt they had erroneously judged object sizes within both of them. Following this learning exercise, researchers placed adult volunteers into two different avatars, the virtual characters controlled by participants.
Standing in the virtual living room, the adult volunteers once again measured the sizes of the three cubes with no feedback. Those standing in one estimated cubes to be roughly twice the size, on average, than did those standing in two of the other avatars. The researchers reported this online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The virtual flying games were part of a study with 80 children ages six to 10. It was conducted over the course of several years at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne, in partnership with Italy’s Genova University. By placing volunteers in VR, scientists are helping adults to experience the world through the eyes of kids.
Is VR Safe For Kids?
The work does not necessarily mean VR is unsafe for kids, nor ever could be, said Marianna Gottsis. The safety of virtual reality differs depending on the device, type of content, and amount of time spent using it, and the individual child using it.