Virtual Reality Safety Guide for Parents

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May 18, 2022

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This virtual reality dangers guide for parents and educators will help VIP members learn

  • What to look for when selecting games on your students’ virtual reality device
  • Potential dangers students might face in online virtual reality experiences
  • How to set limits and talk as a family about appropriate and non-appropriate VR experiences 

Unlock this video to learn what you can do to keep kids safe on virtual reality devices and games

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

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Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ app reviews at SmartSocial.com

This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

Almost 15 million virtual reality or augmented reality sets are scheduled to be shipped to customers around the world in 2022 (Source). If your home or organization is using one, or more, of these devices for kids to experience immersive technology, there are some key warnings to know and think about as you set up this experience.

Parent and educator video

What we're covering in this video:

(Click on a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

1. Common types of VR

2. Why should parents care about online VR?

3. Examples of VR dangers

4. Tips for parents to keep kids safe

5. Tell us what you think!

Common types of virtual reality devices

  • Smartphone enabled VR (like Google Cardboard): The goggles hold the user’s smartphone and use the phone’s screen as a lens. Apps and games are designed to run on a smartphone
  • PC VR: The goggles are connected to a computer or console like a Microsoft XBox or Sony PlayStation to run the software
  • Standalone VR (like Oculus/Meta Quest or VIVE Focus platforms): The headset has a built-in processor to run the software

Common virtual reality experiences

  • First-person action games put users in the middle of the scenario. Examples include racing games or first-person shooter scenarios
  • Crafting apps put users in control of creating something in the virtual environment. Examples include Minecraft, building a virtual empire, or designing objects that could be sent to a 3D printer to make reality
  • Virtual tours & immersive experiences send users to museums and cities around the world or through time for experiences without leaving their own home. Examples include museums, Ancient Greece, concerts, etc.
  • Multi-device co-op games allow users to mix technology in multi-player games to play with virtual reality or smart devices.  Examples include “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” game
  • Many VR technologies are partnering with medical professionals, search and rescue teams, etc. to create training and guided experiences for highly skilled professions 

Why should parents care about online virtual reality?

  • A growing number of games are multi-player with chat functions that allow users to easily connect with strangers via chat and audio communication
  • Online communication with strangers, or friends, can be another place students may experience bullying
  • All devices warn users to check their physical space before putting the headset on and some devices have options to create boundaries the game recognizes to help prevent physical injury
  • Any user is vulnerable to potential motion sickness and eye strain depending on how their bodies react to the immersive experiences

Examples of virtual reality dangers

“Security experts believe where there's money to be made, the criminals won't be far behind and all things — including money, personal information and social security numbers — are at risk.” 

CBS News

“Police say 13-year-old girl who disappeared from her home in Roosevelt and was found several days later was communicating with the 25-year-old suspect from Florida, for a month using something called Oculus.”

2KUTV

“The woman said: ‘"I fumbled with the controllers to try to use the safety features, i.e. block and report. But as I was asking them to 'stop', 'go away', I realised I needed to end this as their verbal harassment and sexual innuendos were getting increasingly aggressive.’”

CNBCTV18

Tips for parents to keep kids safe on virtual reality devices

  • Review the ESRB Safety rating for any games or activities your kids want to play on the device and consider sticking to the age ratings in these warnings (Example: Minecraft for Virtual Reality is rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB; Zenith: The Last city on Quest, PSVR, PC VR is rated M Mature 17+)
  • Decide as a family what games are allowed to be played on the devices and set expectations of what permissions are needed to obtain new software
  • Check that the in-game/in-app purchase or download settings match your family’s decisions
  • Check each game’s settings to determine if the game has options to play “offline” or to turn off  live chat or audio from other players
  • Become familiar with your specific device or game’s reporting functions for bullying and inappropriate users
  • Ensure your students know what information is never ok to share online (such as location, their name or friends’ names, passwords, etc.) 
  • Play the games for yourself-get your kids to explain them to you! (Take turns on the device and complete the demos or tutorials together. Talk through what you are seeing for your student to explain it to you as you experience VR)
  • Talk to kids about what to do if they see inappropriate images (violence, blood, sexual content, use of alcohol or drugs, etc.) in their headsets or hear strong language you don’t want them to hear and why 
  • If possible, screencast the image to another device so you can see what they are seeing and don’t allow students to play multi-player games using headphones
  • If your VR headset includes headphones, ensure your kids know the expectations of what to do if they hear something that is not acceptable

Conclusion

Virtual reality headsets have great potential to take users into immersive experiences they might not have in “real life.” But, many of the same dangers of online interactions in gaming and social media also exist in the metaverse of virtual reality. By setting family expectations and learning about the potential dangers of what they may see online, students can find ways to have fun with immersive technology. 

Additional resources

Listen to the MomTalk podcast to hear Beth and Andrea discuss Virtual Reality

Listen to Josh discuss VR for counseling and family connections with guests from Virgils, Inc.


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Virtual Reality Safety Guide for Parents

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