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Video Games Versus Outdoor Games: Effects on Child

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With advancements in technology, people in this digital era are striving hard to keep themselves updated. Gone are the days when kids used to play using a frisbee or stones and sticks. Now, these smart children are getting introduced to something much more intricate and intriguing. We have come far from a simple Nintendo virtual boy game which only the rich 90s kids used to play with, to a widely available fully immersive Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) games like Pokemon Go, Tiltbrush, Recroom, etc.

VR usually takes the users/players to a completely different simulated life-like scenarios. Replacement of the real world with a virtual simulation is basically what VR means. AR is a part of VR, wherein, a mere enhancement of reality takes place. Meaning that the real-life intersects with computer-based perceptual information. A recent example of an AR game is Pokemon Go.

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Companies like Samsung, HTC, Google and many other companies are gearing up for producing best VR, AR headsets and appliances. The numbers might help you visualize the enormity of this situation, 4.3 million Samsung VR headsets were sold out in just one year! By 2021, the combined market size of AR and VR is estimated to reach $215 billion!

We are venturing into a world where the gap between reality and digitality is diminishing rapidly. And kids are bound to get influenced by this. So how does this advancing technology affect the children? Let us take a deeper look into the matter.

Technology Vs Outdoor Games

VR and AR are changing the way kids learn, play and think. Naturally, looking at what we’re heading towards, today’s generation is bound to get adapted to using these technologies right from an early age. Even with the advent of computers, mobile phones and tablets, children have started engaging themselves in these digital media more.

For kids to grow properly, outdoor games are necessary. The experience involving all their senses, exploring the real world while interacting is required to grow physically, physiologically and socially. Seeing the stars in the night sky, collecting rocks and stamps, chasing a butterfly, playing board games, ride on kids scooters and many more exciting things that kids involved in earlier, seem to be getting lost nowadays.

Children stuck in front of the screens are at a loss of this multi-modal experience. Lack of physical movement leads to a lot of health problems like obesity. Studies suggest that computer games have led to greater risks of developing mental illness, socio-emotional problems and health issues as well. Somewhere, the traditional outdoor games and the children’s touch with the wider world are getting lost. Technology might as well seem the cause of the problem here, but we are turning it into a solution as well.

Using technology to let us engage all our senses led to the creation and need for VR. The main difference between the traditional computer video games and VR games is the immersion. VR and AR headsets may or may not transport you to another world of adventure and fantasy. The perceived sense of presence is increased. Not only this but with this technology, you can ditch sitting on your couch and playing. You need to be on your feet and engage your body to play the game! So, the notion that playing video games cannot keep you physically active is to be discarded. Studies carried out to understand the effect of VR technology has on our body revealed that VR intensifies emotional responses as well.

The Sunny Side of The VR/AR

Virtual reality and Augmented reality systems have proved to be advantageous in several instances.

Better Cognitive skills

Cognitive skills are those that the core skills that the brain uses to memorize, analyze, interpret. These are the skills used to process a thought. Using VR/AR, kids can be put in several simulated situations that can increase their ability to think quickly and make rapid decisions. Escape room-like games can do a good job at this.

Improved Body Coordination

Playing games that involve your entire body is better than the sedentary games. Using VR/AR games that simulate situations where you need to combat or simultaneously use your body parts prove great for increasing the sense of coordination.

Enhanced Expressions

VR/AR is known to increase emotional responses. Simulating real-life situations and placing kids in different shoes, can prove beneficial. Children can learn to express their emotions. They can widen the horizons of their imagination through VR/AR. Children can even start empathizing others more. That means, we can make our future better by letting kids learn basic human values in this unique way.

The Dark Side of VR/AR

New solutions will undoubtedly have new problems. Advancing technology may bridge the gap between the real world and the digital world, but it has already led to several downsides to children.

Eye Problems

Human vision doesn’t fully develop until the age of 7 or 8. Use of VR/AR or any video games in excess may hinder this development and cause eye problems right from an early age. Our eyes are meant to work in synchronicity to capture a single image at a time. However, stereoscopic VR system requires the perception of 2 or more pictures. This image overlay gives a sense of depth and volume which may prove to be harmful to our vision. However, non-stereoscopic VR systems have been developed to make the technology safe for our eyes.

Physical, Mental and Social Problems

Using VR/AR has led to many physical problems in children. They tend to lose their sense of spatial awareness. Because kids do not see where they’re playing it, they do not understand how much space they’ve got to move. And they end up falling and hurting themselves quite often. A feeling of dizziness and drowsiness after playing has been reported to be common. Another term that has come up in recent years is “cybersickness” which refers to feeling nauseated after the gameplay.

A person spending a long time on VR/AR games loses his touch with reality. This dissociation often leads to problems in coping up with situations in their day to day lives. It can affect children’s anxiety, attention span, self-confidence, and self-worth issues. Children are often reported to be cranky and demanding if they are denied their game. An increased urge to play these games leads to lesser time spent socializing with other kids. Playing team games and outdoor games are a way to improve ones socializing, interpretative skills along with sporting spirit. A lack of this will lead kids to become self-engrossed and socially withdrawn. They may turn to these alternatives to reality and redefine “escapism”.

Increased Addiction to Virtual Games

Too much of anything is harmful. And it holds true for developing newer, better and more immersive games for the kids too! The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added “Gaming disorder” in its 2018 revision of medical book named International classification of diseases. It is characterized by an obsession with playing video-games, being sad and depressed when not playing, needing to play to feel good and important, having problems at work or school and continued playing despite these problems. On average, a video game addict plays up to 50 hours per week.

Not everyone who plays these games get addicted. But, those who do, experience a lot of physiological issues. These disadvantages being stated, are not absolute. Since this technology is relatively new, long term effects have not been successfully researched and are not well documented.

Your Responsibility as A Parent

  1. Age label: First and foremost you should consider checking the age label on the VR/AR product/headset/glasses. Do not let kids under the recommended age use it.
  2. Eye-Safe: You need to check whether the VR/AR system you get is stereoscopic or not. A non-stereoscopic system is recommended for use by children.
  3. Set time limit: As a parent, you are responsible for the time your kid spends playing VR/AR games. You need to set a time-limit. Let it be for 15-20 minutes at a stretch followed by a break of another 20 minutes. This way, you make sure that kids don’t tire their eyes out.
  4. Be the censor board: Since kids do not understand the distinction between good and bad, it is you who need to check the content of the games. Any violent content can prove to be negative for your child’s mental well-being, making him/her aggressive.
  5. Supervise: Supervise your kids while they play VR/AR games. Make sure they do not fall or injure themselves seriously.
  6. Pay attention to the physical and social wellbeing. You need to see that your children get enough physical exercise and play on the real playground more often. You need to take into consideration his interactions and socializing skills as well.
  7. Make them expressive. Talk to your children after the game is over. Try to understand and connect to them. Since the game feels so real, you can ask them about how they felt during their experiences. This will strengthen your bonds as well as keep them from being delusional. Another advantage talking possess is that your kid will start being expressive right from a young age.

Myths or Facts

The notion that the new technology will doom the human race is not entirely true. As you can see for yourself, VR/AR systems can prove to be beneficial to a great extent. This has been proven scientifically as well. However, one needs to exercise caution while letting the kids use it. Overusing this technology can be really harmful to kids’ health.

With advancements in technology, people in this digital era are striving hard to keep themselves updated. Gone are the days when kids used to play using a frisbee or stones and sticks. Now, these smart children are getting introduced to something much more intricate and intriguing. We have come far from a simple Nintendo virtual boy game which only the rich 90s kids used to play with, to a widely available fully immersive Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) games like Pokemon Go, Tiltbrush, Recroom, etc.

VR usually takes the users/players to a completely different simulated life-like scenarios. Replacement of the real world with a virtual simulation is basically what VR means. AR is a part of VR, wherein, a mere enhancement of reality takes place. Meaning that the real-life intersects with computer-based perceptual information. A recent example of an AR game is Pokemon Go.

Companies like Samsung, HTC, Google and many other companies are gearing up for producing best VR, AR headsets and appliances. The numbers might help you visualize the enormity of this situation, 4.3 million Samsung VR headsets were sold out in just one year! By 2021, the combined market size of AR and VR is estimated to reach $215 billion!

We are venturing into a world where the gap between reality and digitality is diminishing rapidly. And kids are bound to get influenced by this. So how does this advancing technology affect the children? Let us take a deeper look into the matter.

Technology Vs Outdoor Games

VR and AR are changing the way kids learn, play and think. Naturally, looking at what we’re heading towards, today’s generation is bound to get adapted to using these technologies right from an early age. Even with the advent of computers, mobile phones and tablets, children have started engaging themselves in these digital media more.

For kids to grow properly, outdoor games are necessary. The experience involving all their senses, exploring the real world while interacting is required to grow physically, physiologically and socially. Seeing the stars in the night sky, collecting rocks and stamps, chasing a butterfly, playing board games, ride on kids scooters and many more exciting things that kids involved in earlier, seem to be getting lost nowadays.

Children stuck in front of the screens are at a loss of this multi-modal experience. Lack of physical movement leads to a lot of health problems like obesity. Studies suggest that computer games have led to greater risks of developing mental illness, socio-emotional problems and health issues as well. Somewhere, the traditional outdoor games and the children’s touch with the wider world are getting lost. Technology might as well seem the cause of the problem here, but we are turning it into a solution as well.

Using technology to let us engage all our senses led to the creation and need for VR. The main difference between the traditional computer video games and VR games is the immersion. VR and AR headsets may or may not transport you to another world of adventure and fantasy. The perceived sense of presence is increased. Not only this but with this technology, you can ditch sitting on your couch and playing. You need to be on your feet and engage your body to play the game! So, the notion that playing video games cannot keep you physically active is to be discarded. Studies carried out to understand the effect of VR technology has on our body revealed that VR intensifies emotional responses as well.

The Sunny Side of The VR/AR

Virtual reality and Augmented reality systems have proved to be advantageous in several instances.

Better Cognitive skills

Cognitive skills are those that the core skills that the brain uses to memorize, analyze, interpret. These are the skills used to process a thought. Using VR/AR, kids can be put in several simulated situations that can increase their ability to think quickly and make rapid decisions. Escape room-like games can do a good job at this.

Improved Body Coordination

Playing games that involve your entire body is better than the sedentary games. Using VR/AR games that simulate situations where you need to combat or simultaneously use your body parts prove great for increasing the sense of coordination.

Enhanced Expressions

VR/AR is known to increase emotional responses. Simulating real-life situations and placing kids in different shoes, can prove beneficial. Children can learn to express their emotions. They can widen the horizons of their imagination through VR/AR. Children can even start empathizing others more. That means, we can make our future better by letting kids learn basic human values in this unique way.

The Dark Side of VR/AR

New solutions will undoubtedly have new problems. Advancing technology may bridge the gap between the real world and the digital world, but it has already led to several downsides to children.

Eye Problems

Human vision doesn’t fully develop until the age of 7 or 8. Use of VR/AR or any video games in excess may hinder this development and cause eye problems right from an early age. Our eyes are meant to work in synchronicity to capture a single image at a time. However, stereoscopic VR system requires the perception of 2 or more pictures. This image overlay gives a sense of depth and volume which may prove to be harmful to our vision. However, non-stereoscopic VR systems have been developed to make the technology safe for our eyes.

Physical, Mental and Social Problems

Using VR/AR has led to many physical problems in children. They tend to lose their sense of spatial awareness. Because kids do not see where they’re playing it, they do not understand how much space they’ve got to move. And they end up falling and hurting themselves quite often. A feeling of dizziness and drowsiness after playing has been reported to be common. Another term that has come up in recent years is “cybersickness” which refers to feeling nauseated after the gameplay.

A person spending a long time on VR/AR games loses his touch with reality. This dissociation often leads to problems in coping up with situations in their day to day lives. It can affect children’s anxiety, attention span, self-confidence, and self-worth issues. Children are often reported to be cranky and demanding if they are denied their game. An increased urge to play these games leads to lesser time spent socializing with other kids. Playing team games and outdoor games are a way to improve ones socializing, interpretative skills along with sporting spirit. A lack of this will lead kids to become self-engrossed and socially withdrawn. They may turn to these alternatives to reality and redefine “escapism”.

Increased Addiction to Virtual Games

Too much of anything is harmful. And it holds true for developing newer, better and more immersive games for the kids too! The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added “Gaming disorder” in its 2018 revision of medical book named International classification of diseases. It is characterized by an obsession with playing video-games, being sad and depressed when not playing, needing to play to feel good and important, having problems at work or school and continued playing despite these problems. On average, a video game addict plays up to 50 hours per week.

Not everyone who plays these games get addicted. But, those who do, experience a lot of physiological issues. These disadvantages being stated, are not absolute. Since this technology is relatively new, long term effects have not been successfully researched and are not well documented.

Your Responsibility as A Parent

  1. Age label: First and foremost you should consider checking the age label on the VR/AR product/headset/glasses. Do not let kids under the recommended age use it.
  2. Eye-Safe: You need to check whether the VR/AR system you get is stereoscopic or not. A non-stereoscopic system is recommended for use by children.
  3. Set time limit: As a parent, you are responsible for the time your kid spends playing VR/AR games. You need to set a time-limit. Let it be for 15-20 minutes at a stretch followed by a break of another 20 minutes. This way, you make sure that kids don’t tire their eyes out.
  4. Be the censor board: Since kids do not understand the distinction between good and bad, it is you who need to check the content of the games. Any violent content can prove to be negative for your child’s mental well-being, making him/her aggressive.
  5. Supervise: Supervise your kids while they play VR/AR games. Make sure they do not fall or injure themselves seriously.
  6. Pay attention to the physical and social wellbeing. You need to see that your children get enough physical exercise and play on the real playground more often. You need to take into consideration his interactions and socializing skills as well.
  7. Make them expressive. Talk to your children after the game is over. Try to understand and connect to them. Since the game feels so real, you can ask them about how they felt during their experiences. This will strengthen your bonds as well as keep them from being delusional. Another advantage talking possess is that your kid will start being expressive right from a young age.

Myths or Facts

The notion that the new technology will doom the human race is not entirely true. As you can see for yourself, VR/AR systems can prove to be beneficial to a great extent. This has been proven scientifically as well. However, one needs to exercise caution while letting the kids use it. Overusing this technology can be really harmful to kids’ health.

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