A child with long black hair and a red T-shirt sitting at a table with a VR headset on, resting their chin in their hands.

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the newer trends in technology, transporting you to a new world with a pair of goggles. VR is impressive, but you may worry about its effects on the eyes, especially for children

While VR isn’t inherently bad for your child’s sight, be cautious with this technology with young children. VR can cause discomfort and may lead to digital eye strain, so it’s best to play it safe with your child’s vision and eye health

What Is VR?

Virtual reality, or VR, is a simulation that immerses you in a different world. Instead of looking at a screen, you’re essentially inside the digital environment. Many people play VR video games, but this technology can even be used to improve your vision. 

Using VR requires you to wear goggles that bring you into the digital world, but they can cause your eyes discomfort if you use them for too long. 

How Does VR Affect Your Eyes?

When you use VR, your eyes sit close to small digital screens, which help immerse you in the virtual world of your choice. While VR offers a unique and innovative way to experience media, it can be disorienting or uncomfortable, especially after long periods of use. 

Extended focus on digital screens can lead to digital eye strain, a common condition where your eyes become tired and irritated. Your eyes focus harder to see close-up images clearly, and your eye muscles can become fatigued over time. With how close the screens of VR goggles sit on your face, eye strain can be a significant risk, leading to headaches, sore eyes, and blurry vision. 

Another concern with VR is the condition known as cybersickness. It’s similar to motion sickness, except not caused by physical movement like being in a car.

Cybersickness can lead to several symptoms, including: 

  • Eye strain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Cybersickness occurs when you lose your orientation—the feeling of being grounded where you are in the world at one particular moment. The cause of this confusion can happen due to competing information from your eyes and other parts of the body to your brain. Your eyes feel like you’re moving due to the visuals in VR, but the rest of your body knows you’re standing still, leading to cybersickness. 

An optometrist smiling and conducting an eye exam on a child using a device that tests her vision.

Is VR Bad for Children’s Eyes?

VR isn’t bad for your child’s eyes, but they may experience temporary discomfort due to cybersickness or digital eye strain. With the rise of VR in the past few years, experts are researching how this technology affects the eyes. 

A 2020 study of 50 children of various ages looked at the effects of VR on young eyes. Children played a VR game for 30 minutes each, and researchers observed how they reacted to the test. 

The results found that children had no negative effects after 30 minutes and minor symptoms after an hour. Of these minor symptoms, children commonly experienced fatigue, eye strain, head and neck discomfort, and motion sickness. 

Researchers identified that VR isn’t dangerous for children, even those younger than 13. While this study notes that children of any age can use this technology, follow the safety warnings on VR headsets. It’s better to be safe with your child’s vision and eye health. 

How Can You Prevent Discomfort Caused by VR?

VR won’t significantly affect your child’s vision, but it can lead to discomfort if they experience digital eye strain or cybersickness. In general, you should avoid letting your child use VR if they’re under 13 years old. Many VR headsets have safety warnings regarding the age restriction for these devices. 

The Canadian Association of Optometrists offers 3 tips to follow to protect your child’s vision when using VR: 

  • Don’t spend too much time using VR 
  • Read the safety warnings listed on the VR device
  • Book regular eye exams to identify potential eye or vision problems

Take Care of Your Child’s Vision

You don’t need to be scared of VR, but it’s important to follow the recommended guidelines to make sure your child is the right age to use this technology. Read the safety notice on your VR system and avoid using it for extended periods. Set limits on your child’s digital screen use to help prevent unnecessary irritation and discomfort. Contact River City Eye Care at our Edmonton optometry clinic to learn more about caring for your child’s eye health and vision.