“We only know ourselves to the extent that we have been tested,” Wislawa Szymborska wrote in her poem “A minute of silence after Louise Wawrzyński.” It is difficult to predict how we may behave in a stressful situation that will require taking immediate action. I hope not to ever find myself in such. But it is even more difficult to predict the reaction of an average child.
Are we able to check whether the safety rules that we instill in children at homes or schools are assimilated by them sufficiently to avoid risks? Are we sure that they will properly react to an emergency to save someone’s life? It occurs that virtual reality technologies may help answer these questions.
The world of children’s imaginations, fears, perception of reality is different than the one of adults. Even when they possess a theoretical knowledge of a subject matter, we cannot predict how they will react when they find themselves in a stressful situation. Anat Meir conducted a virtual reality experiment that had to examine the degree of danger recognition on the road by children. The results showed that children between 7 and 9 years of age were the least aware of possible danger. And it was not much better with the older ones. These children erroneously interpreted the speed of oncoming cars or paid no attention to the limited field of view. Parents, who watched the whole VR experiment, were shocked when they realized to what dangers their children are exposed and how often their reactions are inappropriate. Statistics show that the most vulnerable children are those under 14 years of age – in that group, the percentage of tragic accidents is the highest.
It seems that the use of virtual reality solutions in this case is something very desirable because realistically rendered situations are safe. Moreover, VR devices provide opportunity for repetition and are easy to modify for a specific recipient. Real-time simulation, which can be also a great and memorable fun, is far more better than a theoretical knowledge. It can also be applied to other dangerous situations such as meeting strangers, accepting or refusing gifts, or reacting in stressful emergency situations such as fire or traffic accident.
The above described examples show just a few of many educational applications of VR technology. Without any doubts, I would say that teaching children through a secure simulation will have a real impact on the safety of another person, and will be unquestionably rewarding.