Effects of Immersive Virtual Reality Headset Viewing on Young Children: Visuomotor Function, Postural Stability, and Motion Sickness

Lawrence Tychsen, Paul Foeller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess the safety of VR 3D headset (virtual reality 3-dimensional binocular-stereoscopic near-eye display) use in young children. Product safety warnings that accompany VR headsets ban their use in children under age 13 years. Design: Prospective, interventional, before-and-after study. Methods: Recordings were obtained in 50 children (29 boys) aged 4-10 years (mean 7.2 ± 1.8 years). Minimum binocular corrected distance visual acuity (CDVA) was 20/50 (logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution [logMAR] 0.4) and stereoacuity 800 seconds of an arc or better. A Sony PlayStation VR headset was worn for 2 sequential play sessions (of 30 minutes each) of a first-person 3D flying game (Eagle Flight) requiring head movement to control flight direction (pitch, yaw, and roll axes). Baseline testing preceded VR exposure, and each VR session was followed by post-VR testing of binocular CDVA, refractive error, binocular eye alignment (strabismus), stereoacuity, and postural stability (imbalance). Visually induced motion sickness was probed using the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire modified for pediatric use (Peds SSQ). Visual-vestibulo-ocular reflex (V-VOR) adaptation was also tested pre- vs post-trial in 5 of the children. Safety was gauged as a decline or change from baseline in any visuomotor measure. Results: Forty-six of 50 children (94%) completed both VR play sessions with no significant change from baseline in measures of binocular CDVA (P =.89), refractive error (P =.36), binocular eye alignment (P =.90), or stereoacuity (P =.45). Postural stability degraded an average 9% from baseline after 60 minutes of VR exposure (P =.06). Peds SSQ scores increased a mean 4.7%—comparing pretrial to post-trial—for each of 4 symptom categories: eye discomfort (P =.02), head/neck discomfort (P =.03), fatigue (P =.03), and motion sickness (P =.01). None of the children who finished both trial sessions (94%) asked to end the play, and the majority were disappointed when play was halted. V-VOR gain remained unaltered in the 5 children tested. Three children (6% of participants) discontinued the trial during the first 10 minutes of the first session of VR play, 2 girls (aged 5 and 6 years) and 1 boy (aged 7 years). The girls reported discomfort consistent with mild motion sickness; the boy said he was bored and the headset was uncomfortable. No child manifested aftereffects (“flashbacks”) in the days following the VR exposure. Conclusion: Young children tolerate fully immersive 3D virtual reality game play without noteworthy effects on visuomotor functions. VR play did not induce significant post-VR postural instability or maladaption of the vestibulo-ocular reflex. The prevalence of discomfort and aftereffects may be less than that reported for adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-159
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of ophthalmology
StatePublished - Jan 2020


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