VR headsets could pose child health risks

The expected rise in VR headsets could be about to hit a roadblock, as scientists link the devices with health risks in children. A team of researchers at Leeds University have linked VR headsets with potential eyesight and balance problems in young users.

The study by the Leeds researchers – who have been working in close collaboration with British VR companies – is the first to link potential health risks with the devices. However the research is far from conclusive at this stage and shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to sales figures. The study looked at 20 children aged between eight and 12 and found that none of them experienced serious determination in their eyesight.

The cause for concern came when two children experienced a worsening of their stereo-acuity (the ability to detect differences in distances). Meanwhile another child experienced a ‘drastic worsening’ of their balance immediately after finishing the VR game. In all cases the effects were short-lived, however the researchers found them significant enough to encourage further studies.

“In a VR device, a virtual three-dimensional world is displayed on a 2D screen and that places strain on the human visual system,” said Mark Mon-Williams, professor of cognitive psychology at Leeds University. “In adults, that can lead to headaches and sore eyes. But with children, the long-term consequences are simply unknown.”

“This study presents one of the first ever investigations into the impact of VR use on children’s vision and balance,” added Faisal Mushtaq, an expert in human performance research. “Establishing the scientific evidence base on safe usage is important if we want to ensure that children benefit from all the exciting possibilities that VR has to offer.”

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