Mitigating the Negative Impacts when Designing Educational VR Applications for Children

Mitigating the Negative Impacts when Designing Educational VR Applications for Children

Table of Contents


Educational VR applications, mainly designed for children, are often used to showcase the benefits of VR. While such applications highlight a lot of the potentials for future learning environments, we miss a deep and critical reflection of the negative impacts that those mixed-reality technologies may have on children. We believe that it is very important for us technologists to minimize the risks for this particular vulnerable user group. In light of the recent debates on abusive ethical, social and political issues of mixed-reality technologies, we outline how developers can mitigate the negative impacts of educational VR applications designed for children such as social isolation and an overestimation of abilities.

Author Keywords

Social Isolation, Overestimation of Abilities, VR, Children and VR, Risks of IVEs

CCS Concepts

•Human-centered computing → Virtual reality, Human-computer interaction (HCI), Mixed/augmented reality, HCI theory, concepts, and models

Introduction & Motivation

Since the first commercial releases of HMDs around 2010, educational VR applications were often one of the first showcases to highlight the benefits and potential of VR technologies. Since then, VR has become much more affordable and schools adopted these new technologies (see figure 1). Google, for example, started VR Expeditions in 2015 to enable children to go on virtual field trips [10]. They emphasize that VR technology represents a cost-saving and undiscriminating way of experiencing places the children normally would not be able to go to. In addition, Allison showed that virtual field trips to zoos or to historical eras can improve the children’s learning abilities [1, 4].

Other research on educational VR applications highlight that students of universities enjoy being educated via online courses [2]. Bailenson et al. found that virtual teachers in a virtual classroom would allow an individual learning pace for children [3]. VR-immersed classrooms have further been tested with geography lessons and received strong positive feedback [11]. VR is also frequently used to investigate distraction, attention, and inhibition of children in school [6, 17].

Even though there have been many technological advances and a lot of fundamental research in the field of VR in education, it is surprising that there is little work reflecting on the risks of this novel technology as recently suggested by Hecht et al. [12]. This is especially astonishing because even more privacy-risking features are supposed to be built into future VR-settings, such as eye-tracking, EEG, and galvanic skin response, that gather data about involuntary nonverbal reactions of users [7].

Today, there is only limited research that examines the risk for children using VR applications [4]. Bailey and Bailenson assume, for example, that children are more likely to be addicted to VR than adults and that they lose a sense of their physical surroundings due to the highly engaging content [4]. Aspects like manipulation through advertising in VR, privacy matters, and data collection have not been sufficiently considered for adults, let alone for children.

Figure 1 speaks volumes of the difference between how educational VR apps are being advertised and how the first trials, in reality, look like. One shows the novelty effect of experiencing VR for the first time, which can be astonishing, and the other social isolation from students being in their own digital bubble. We propose that it is important to also discuss the negative impacts when designing educational VR applications. Especially for children and teens, VR applications may bear risks, which have not yet been sufficiently explored [4]. In this workshop paper, we discuss the potential of the negative impacts of VR applications used for children in an educational setting.


In order to mitigate the negative impacts when designing educational VR applications, more research needs to be done to fully understand these side effects, in particular for children. We believe the HCI community can play an important role to illuminate and discuss these risks and further ethical problems in this workshop and we hope to stimulate discussions with our ideas presented in the paper.

About KSRA

The Kavian Scientific Research Association (KSRA) is a non-profit research organization to provide research / educational services in December 2013. The members of the community had formed a virtual group on the Viber social network. The core of the Kavian Scientific Association was formed with these members as founders. These individuals, led by Professor Siavosh Kaviani, decided to launch a scientific / research association with an emphasis on education.

KSRA research association, as a non-profit research firm, is committed to providing research services in the field of knowledge. The main beneficiaries of this association are public or private knowledge-based companies, students, researchers, researchers, professors, universities, and industrial and semi-industrial centers around the world.

Our main services Based on Education for all Spectrum people in the world. We want to make an integration between researches and educations. We believe education is the main right of Human beings. So our services should be concentrated on inclusive education.

The KSRA team partners with local under-served communities around the world to improve the access to and quality of knowledge based on education, amplify and augment learning programs where they exist, and create new opportunities for e-learning where traditional education systems are lacking or non-existent.

FULL Paper PDF file:


Mitigating the Negative Impacts when Designing Educational VR Applications for Children



Nadine Wagener University of Bremen
Johannes Schöning University of Bremen
Yvonne Rogers UCL & University of Bremen




Mitigating the Negative Impacts when Designing Educational VR Applications for Children

Publish in

Workshop on Exploring Potentially Abusive Ethical, Social and Political Implications of Mixed Reality Research in HCI

PDF reference and original file: Click here

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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.