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(Common Sense video image)

Non-profit Common Sense Media is weighing in on virtual reality use by kids. And much of the advice to parents boils down to keeping immersive sessions brief, having children sit down while using VR equipment, and asking if you’d want your kids to have the same experience in the real world.

The recommendations are contained in a new research report and survey, “Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR.” Based on a review of research and a national poll of parents, the organization’s report finds that most parents have some concerns about VR, but there are potentially positive aspects for kids as well, including increased empathy and better understanding of others’ perspectives.

Among key findings of the survey of families with children under the age of 18:

  • 21 percent own a VR device, and 13 percent are planning on buying one in the next year.
  • 43 percent say it’s appropriate for kids under the age of 13 to use VR.
  • 60 percent are at least “somewhat concerned” their children will experience negative health effects while using VR.

The survey also found that 62 percent of parents overall believe that VR will provide educational experiences for their kids. Yet, at the same time, 76 percent of parents with 8-17 year olds who actually use VR, use it for playing games. Only 22 percent of that group say they use it for learning something.

(Common Sense infographic image)

In the report, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab notes its guideline is to limit young children’s use of VR to five minutes at a time (and adults to 20 minutes) to avoid “simulator sickness.”

Jeremy Bailenson, the head of the Stanford lab and a report co-author, writes in the introduction, “think in terms of minutes. Most VR is meant to be done on the five- to 10-minute scale.” Bailenson also recommends that kids sit down for safety, any dangerous objects be removed from the space, and a second person not using VR act as a “spotter.”

“There is still a lot to learn about VR, and we have a responsibility to parents and educators to understand how it impacts child development so they can minimize the potentially negative effects while maximizing the positives,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense, in a statement accompanying the report. “As advocates and researchers, we have a unique opportunity to stay on top of this emerging technology and influence its development to help kids learn, achieve better health outcomes, and enhance their entertainment.”

Common Sense also released a video with six tips for parents on safe use of VR with kids.

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