Google Glass, safe for kids

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google Glass hasn’t even hit the market, and already tech reviewers everywhere are buzzing with questions about its viability as a game changer in the world of technology.

For those of you who don’t know, here’s a brief decription of what it even is: Google Glass is essentially a wearable computer, eyeglass-type spectacles that project a small image just to the top right of your field of vision. Basically, you wear it all the time, and therefore have the capabilities of a smartphone anywhere and everywhere, without even touching an actual device. You say things like, “OK, Glass, take a picture” and “OK, Glass, send a message to Dad.” And it’ll do just that — record video or send a message to your father.

But concerns have been raised about Glass when it comes to kids wearing the device, mostly because Google issued a warning on its Glass FAQ page about the use of its product by children. “Don’t let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision. Also, kids might break Glass or hurt themselves, and Google’s terms of service don’t permit those under 13 to register a Google account.”

So could Google Glass really be harmful for your kids’ eyes?

Not terribly. According to pediatric ophthalmologist and pediatric and adult strabismus expert Dr. Lee Friedman of the Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute, “[Google Glass is] probably not harmful in and of itself, but there may be some potential concerns in children using them. Since we are meant to be binocular (to use our two eyes together to form one unified image), the more a child learns to separate the two eyes (use them independently), the more potential the child has to adapt to monocular vision.”

According to Friedman, this is only a potential concern, since Glass hasn’t been evaluated and is not even meant for use by children, since to be a registered Google user, you have to be 13. But that doesn’t prevent parents from letting their kids use their new toy. But if your kids have certain eye problems, be wary of doing so. “In children with accommodative or focusing problems, prolonged near viewing can potentially exacerbate these problems,” Friedman notes.

What is more concerning is not necessarily your child’s use of Google Glass, but rather its use by others when your children are present. Since Google Glass provides an entirely private computing experience, it’s impossible to see whether that guy on the playground is recording your kid’s trip down the slide or simply checking the weather. And do you really want a teacher from school wearing Google Glass in the bathroom while your kid is in there? It’s definitely unnerving to think about as a parent, to say the least. And as a parent, I can also say that Google’s response to concerns seemed underwhelming.

Since it hasn’t hit the market, it remains to be seen whether Google Glass will present a real issue for parents, but it’ll definitely be something to watch out for once more and more people have the computer in place on their heads.

Related Google Glass stories on MNN:

Is Google Glass safe for kids?
Think twice if you're considering letting your child (or anyone around your child) use the technology.