January 7, 2016
For Immediate Release
Redmond, Washington, January 8, 2016 (Newswire) -reSTART Life, LLC and Collegiate Coaching Services are working together to share information about virtual reality gaming and its emergence into mainstream society. Both organizations specialize in the treatment and recovery of digital media overuse and addiction issues.
In 2016, now more than ever before, virtual reality (VR) technology is becoming more accessible and mainstream. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show will make available VR technology, drones and other similar technology to consumers across America in a way like never before. These virtual reality devices are the next wave in technology. Much like the use of the internet and social media sites, VR is on its way to becoming a household fixture affecting more children and families than ever before. These devices are now cheap, accessible and ready for the average consumer and with that will be the increased danger of overuse and dependency.
VR has sought to provide an immersive experience for more than 20 years and is now rapidly expanding in both its sophistication and accessibility. From helping form better posture in those with multiple sclerosis (Gutiéerrez, et al, 2013) to helping those with autism develop better job interview skills, VR has been training minds to conceptualize how different their real life can be by removing them from it. The most common use for VR technology has been by researchers in clinical trials for a very explicit purpose. Occasionally, a high-end arcade may provide a VR simulator to mimic piloting a fighter jet or exploring a new world, but now the access to engrossing tech play is entering living rooms worldwide.
The idea of an immersive experience is to lose oneself for the purpose of training or experiencing something seemingly impossible. This mind-over-matter science has worked successfully for stroke patients to rehabilitate movement lost motor function (Schuster-Am, et al, 2015) and has been used in psychological testing to evoke specific frames of emotion and empathy (Schmierbach & Limperos, 2013). This disinhibition and depersonalization is not only real, it is functional in these treatment modalities. Taken from their clinical context, however, the transcendent experience of VR to relatively unchecked entertainment environments has serious implications.
For example, the long-awaited VR headset Oculus Rift will start shipping in March for $599, and according to a recent USA Today article, the demand for the product has been so high that the founder of the Facebook-owned company recently apologized publicly for order problems. The headset will include built-in headphones and microphone, a sensor and an Xbox One controller. It will also ship with two games and the company plans to introduce 20 more later this year. While the cost of the Rift is at the higher-end of virtual reality products, for example Samsung's Gear VR sells for $99, has not hindered demand.
VR’s efficacy cannot be understated as it makes its way from structured lab environments into the hands of consumers nationwide. Samsung warns in the Gear VR’s packaging of potential epileptic seizures and suggests playing for only 30 minutes before taking a 15-minute break (Samsung, 2015). Ninety-seven percent of adolescents and children in America (Wittek, et al, 2015) spend an average of 2 hours of screen time per day (Common Sense Media, 2013), so it is not likely that they will be accustomed to limiting their use. Research suggests that the younger a child’s age, the more likely they are to develop addictive features related to video gaming. Psychologically, children do not have well-honed capacities for self-regulation and are not sure how to decipher what timeframe or content is appropriate. They cannot reason beyond their natural inclination toward “magical thinking” (a child’s inability of distinguishing fact from fiction). Thus, it is imperative for children to be exposed to what will edify their growth and protected from what will disturb it.
Certain debates are arising about new technology. For example, there is debate about the role of violent video games in school violence because it is not hard to imagine a child thinking that they are becoming that character in the game and translating that marksmanship to their real-life existence. Proponents and investors expect the line between true reality and VR to blur even more with the use of psychotropic drugs. Peter Rothman, a VR advocate, wrote, “The combination of psychoactive substances and particularly cannabis with VR seemingly is a match made in heaven.” While Jon Connington, also an advocate of VR, posits, “Reality will become somewhat dull, only leaving us with a sense of nostalgia for simpler times. Escapism will become a new disease.”
“Our society has intervened on many escapist fronts in the past, not least of which have regarded addictions,” says Hilarie Cash, PhD, chief clinical officer and founding member of reSTART. “For chronic digital over consumers the onslaught of marketing, coupled with the curiosity of new games, releases, expansion packs and a whole new genre of entertainment media in the form of virtual reality, make it that much more difficult to resist. The real question we need to address is how are we as clinicians, care providers, teachers, and parents going to respond to the inevitability of this technological “advancement” as it is presenting with addictive tendencies.”
Learning from clinical trials where virtual reality has been used healthfully, reSTART Life, LLC and Collegiate Coaching Services suggest the following: 1) knowing what the virtual reality technology is attempting to accomplish for the child/adolescent; 2) structuring use by filtering the type of gaming media (i.e. no first-person shooters); 3) establishing rigid time limits; and 4) opting for an equal or greater amount of time offline.
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Common Sense Media Research Study. (2013). Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013
Gutiéerrez, R. O., del Río, F. G., de la Cuerda, R. C., Alguacil-Diego, I. M., Diego, A., González, R. A., & Page, J. M. (2013). A telerehabilitation program by virtual reality-video games improves balance and postural control in multiple sclerosis patients. Neurorehabilitation, 33(4), 545-554.
Morina, N., Ijntema, H., Meyerbröker, K., & Emmelkamp, P. M. (2015). Can virtual reality exposure therapy gains be generalized to real-life? A meta-analysis of studies applying behavioral assessments. Behaviour Research And Therapy, 7418-24. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2015.08.010
Samsung Gear VR. (2015) Handbook of health warnings and potential injury.
Schuster-Amft, C., Henneke, A., Hartog-Keisker, B., Holper, L., Siekierka, E., Chevrier, E., & ... Eng, K. (2015). Intensive virtual reality-based training for upper limb motor function in chronic stroke: A feasibility study using a single case experimental design and fMRI. Disability And Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 10(5), 385-392.
Smith, M. J., Fleming, M. F., Wright, M. A., Losh, M., Humm, L. B., Olsen, D., & Bell, M. D. (2015). Brief report: Vocational outcomes for young adults with autism spectrum disorders at six months after virtual reality job interview training. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 45(10), 3364-3369. doi:10.1007/s10803-015-2470-1
Schmierbach, M., & Limperos, A. M. (2013). Virtual justice: Testing disposition theory in the context of a story-driven video game. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 57(4), 526-542. doi:10.1080/08838151.2013.845828