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4 reasons not to get an Oculus Quest 2 for kids

And why you might do it anyway.

Oculus Quest 2

The year-old Quest 2 is a fantastic device. But it's not designed for younger kids.

Scott Stein/CNET

If I were asked for a great tech gift recommendation for kids for about $300, few options come to mind. An iPad. A Nintendo Switch. A Chromebook. Or maybe an RC car or a robot. For many of my friends, though, the Oculus Quest 2 is what pops up. And to be sure, I've loved its games. There's only one problem: It's not actually designed for kids under 13. And I wouldn't recommend it for them, either.

Meta (Facebook) has developed its VR headset into a unique gaming console. It's an excellent product, and there's still nothing quite like it, especially at this price. But if you're shopping this holiday season, keep in mind that the Quest 2 isn't the kid-friendly system you might think it is. (Although, if you're anything like most of my friends and family, you'll probably get it anyway.)

The Quest 2 is an amazing doorway to immersive experiences, and it can be a device you share with your kids under supervision, if you're in the same room with them. But as a parent and someone who's used the Quest 2 regularly, I can't recommend it as a kid's device for several reasons. Even Mark Zuckerberg doesn't consider the Quest 2 appropriate for children. When I spoke with him about my concerns and questions earlier this year, he said, regarding the possibility of a kid-focused VR headset or software ecosystem, "I think it's probably quite a ways off that we'd really build something like this."

There just isn't anything like the Quest 2, unfortunately. The age of VR goggles that work with phones is long gone. Nintendo did make a VR kit for the Switch, if you can find it on sale somewhere, but it was more toy than tool. The PlayStation VR is still fun, but it's full of wires, and at this point I'd wait until next year's PSVR 2.

My reasons for steering parents away from the Quest 2 as a gift for kids are below. But if you need further convincing of how much Meta itself doesn't consider the Quest a device for kids, read this safety policies page

The Quest 2 doesn't support kid accounts or profiles

"As you know, in order to use this, you sign in with your Facebook account. That way you can have all your friends there and have the kind of social experience that we're trying to build. But you can't have a Facebook account if you're under 13," Zuckerberg said to me back in May. That's still true for the Quest, although it looks like Meta will back off requiring a Facebook account in the future. However, the account you choose to log in with is assumed to be for someone 13 years and older. The Quest also lacks any separate logins or profiles, so a kid using a Quest ends up being online under the Facebook account of the person who signed up. 

It's pretty standard with other game consoles to have multiple player profiles, and also kid accounts that allow certain online features to be locked down. The Quest 2 simply doesn't have these options. Which brings me to another issue…

Oculus Quest 2

You can keep an eye on what your kid is looking at using the Oculus phone app, and casting to it. But there aren't any other kid profile settings.

Scott Stein/CNET

Monitoring or turning off chat and filtering content is difficult or impossible

Much of VR is a solo experience, but going online in social apps and games can throw you into a weird mix of people along with conversations that frequently aren't censored at all. With poker games, social hubs like Altspace VR, Rec Room and VRChat, and esports like Echo VR, you can expect lots of strangers. I keep my kids' game console chat controls pretty locked down, but you just can't do that with the Oculus Quest.

And let's talk about content: There are plenty of Oculus games that are full of gun violence or horror and rated for adults only. Plus, there's a full web browser that has no content filter settings, either. You could literally view anything (including VR and 360-degree video content, some of which is definitely for adults.)

Safety (you could trip, or hit something or someone)

VR is a high-motion situation where games ask for lots of movement and hand-swinging. Setting up a boundary for your VR play, called a Guardian, happens when you turn on the headset. This boundary-setup process recognizes if there are obstacles in the way, and shows you them in black-and-white using the Quest's passthrough cameras. But after that, there's no sense of where obstacles might be. The Quest 2 doesn't have collision-detection or object-avoidance awareness like a car or a robot might, so you could hit someone in the room by accident, break a lamp, trip over someone or something or, even worse, punch your hand into a wall. I set up my play areas very carefully with plenty of extra room near walls, and I stay away from others. Kids likely won't be so careful. 

VR isn't vetted for young kids yet

Is VR even safe for younger kids? We still don't really know, and Facebook is punting on the issue. But Zuckerberg also points to how the Quest 2 headset isn't weighted or optically aligned for smaller heads and eyes. 

"The device is designed for people who have a certain IPD (interpupillary distance) range, how far apart your eyes [are]. And different things like the weighting of the device are designed for people who have a certain amount of neck strength, for example. So not small kids, but at least people in their teens and adults. Those are things that I think will have to be overcome before you design even just hardware that I think really makes sense for younger kids to be wearing for an extended period of time," Zuckerberg said.

I feel eye strain and fatigue when spending more than an hour in VR with a Quest 2. And I've noticed that the headset doesn't fit well on my kids' heads: My 8-year-old needs to prop the headset up a bit when looking at VR. I only let him use it for a few minutes at a time and always supervised.

Keep an eye out for possible skin reactions

There's also a wild card: Facebook has found that a small number of people experienced something resembling an allergic skin reaction to the foam face coverings on the Quest 2. The reports prompted the company to include silicone covers in-box or offer free covers online. No one in my family has had rashes or reactions, but you can get sweaty playing VR games. I'd recommend keeping a few clean spare foam faceplates and silicone covers just for general hygiene.

You could use it as a family, though

I've let my kids play VR occasionally, and let them see some amazing videos or simulations. I create a safe and empty area that's close to me, and while I let them use it, I cast the VR video to my phone using the Oculus app. That lets you watch what they're watching, and make sure it's appropriate. Unfortunately, there aren't any good controls on the phone app to easily guide someone else through an experience, which means I still need to rely on their own gameplay judgement. 

I wouldn't feel comfortable giving a Quest 2 to a kid under 13 to use on their own. That hasn't stopped many people I know from doing just that, many of whom have said the Quest 2 has been a lot of fun. That doesn't change the fact that Facebook needs to build better parental and account controls and add better safety measures into the Quest 2 before I'd consider it a great kid gift. If you want to get one, just be prepared to accept the above concerns and figure out how you'll solve them in your household. You may completely disagree with me, but if you're considering a Quest 2 for a holiday gift this year, these are good things to keep in mind.