As a parent of two teenagers myself, I know we all want to balance giving our kids independence while still keeping them safe. New platforms like virtual reality complicate these decisions. After taking a data-driven look at Bonelab and consulting child development research, my recommendation would be to wait until 13 at a minimum. Here is my in-depth analysis on the risks and rewards of VR for your 12 year old.
The Bottom Line: Wait Until 13
While every child‘s individual maturity and sensitivities should be considered, based on its content and intensity, I recommend prohibiting Bonelab for 12 year olds. Around 13 is when most kids have developed the emotional intelligence to handle mature content responsibly, making that a safer starting age.
What Kind of Game is Bonelab?
As background, Bonelab is a virtual reality action game focused on realistic physics and intense combat. It received an M for Mature rating from the ESRB due to:
- Explicit violence against human and robot enemies using guns, clubs and other weapons
- Blood splatter effects when injuring/killing enemies
- Abilities to dismember or decapitate enemies
This level of graphic content exceeds what would be appropriate for pre-teens. The predecessor Boneworks had similarly realistic and brutal violence.
VR Age Minimums from Major Companies
While not definitive, respected technology companies reinforce 13 as a reasonable minimum age:
|Meta Quest 2||13+|
|Sony PlayStation VR||12+|
These recommendations exist to protect developing vision and avoid content meant for mature audiences. The majority agree 13 is prudent based on current research.
Studies Raise Concerns About VR for Pre-Teens
Although data is limited, a few studies highlight potential vision and brain development issues:
- A 2018 study found VR could negatively impact depth perception and balance in children 8-12.
- In 2016, researchers observed neurologic dysfunction in pre-teens after just 15 minutes in VR.
While more research is needed, we should be cautious about prolonged VR use under 13 given what we know so far.
Pre-Teens May Lack Emotional Maturity for VR
Just as important as physical development, 12 year olds often lack the emotional intelligence to handle intense VR experiences:
- Their frontal lobes are still developing, limiting their ability to self-regulate emotions.
- They may have trouble dissociating VR violence from real world consequences.
- Mature games can introduce adult themes they aren‘t prepared to process.
Of course every child matures differently, but 13 is a reasonable age where they gain greater emotional control.
Tips to Introduce VR Safely at 13
Once your child turns 13, VR may be appropriate with proper precautions:
- Research games and only allow age-appropriate content
- Set playtime limits of 30-60 minutes to allow vision breaks
- Prohibit VR within 30 minutes of bedtime to avoid overstimulation
- Have open discussions about what they experience in VR
Following this common sense guidance will help minimize any health and safety risks.
The Reward – VR Can Benefit Teen Development
Under the right conditions, VR technology can enrich and support teens‘ growth:
- It allows new social possibilities through online communities.
- Spatial awareness and coordination improve through immersive play.
- Problem-solving skills develop in complex VR environments.
Under parents‘ watchful eye, VR can be a healthy new medium for teenagers. But until then, protecting their still-developing minds and bodies should take priority.
The Bottom Line
I suggest waiting until your child turns 13 before considering VR. While I don‘t claim there is one "correct" minimum age, 13 aligns with most recommendations and allows time for greater emotional maturity. Of course, use your own judgement based on your child‘s sensitivities and your family values. With some reasonable safeguards, VR can soon become a fun and healthy part of their adolescence.