The world of social media is constantly changing, and new trends are emerging. Virtual Reality (VR) technology is one such emerging trend. A recent report by Juniper Research found that the market for virtual reality will grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $19 billion by 2025. This growth encourages more businesses and researchers to explore ways to incorporate VR into their operations. As a qualitative researcher, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to use VR in my research studies. I was especially interested in researching children’s social media behavior as part of Virtual Ethnography, given recent concerns about its potential adverse effects on young people. However, as a qualitative researcher, I struggled with how to use VR in my research study practically.
What is Virtual Reality?
VR is an immersive computer-generated simulation designed to create a lifelike experience. The term “virtual reality” was coined in the 1950s, with researchers exploring the idea of a fully immersive computer-generated environment. However, it was not until the 1990s that VR became a reality. VR has been used in research, business, education, and healthcare applications. VR technologies include 3D computer graphics, augmented reality, 360-degree video, and wearable technology. VR is often used to create experiences that participants could not have in real life. It can create safe experiences and allow researchers to study participants’ behaviors without causing harm. VR can be used to create new contexts to explore people’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. For example, VR can place participants in situations that they would not experience in real life, like a space mission or a march through a war zone.
The Involvement of Children in Social Media
When I do virtual ethnography, children’s involvement in social media cannot be ignored. Even kids have an addiction to using android. Their habits are watching YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram, and playing online games. In addition, they are also content creators to help the family’s income. Even some families in cyberspace have made their children a commodity on social media.
Their involvement, both in the real world and the virtual world, is undoubtedly very influential. Sometimes they can not fully concentrate on their activities. As soon as they hear music on Tik Tok, their bodies will dance, as if without realizing it. They have a longing for their idols, whom they watch every day.
Children from a young age have been involved in earning an income for the family. In addition, they also have a life to show to the virtual world. Therefore, not a few children work from a young age to become content creators on YouTube, Tik Tok, and Instagram. They, of course, do all this for fun, but psychologically it will undoubtedly have a significant impact.
Why Research Children’s Social Media Behaviour?
VR technology is still a new and emerging trend, and it may not yet be well-suited to some types of research studies. However, VR can be very effective in other research contexts. VR can be a superior technology for studying children’s social media behavior because social media platforms are where many children today spend much of their time. This behavior is particularly relevant for researchers to understand, given recent concerns about the potential adverse effects of social media use on young people. Social media use can benefit children and young people, including connecting with peers, expressing ideas and opinions, and gaining new perspectives. However, social media use has also been linked to several potential adverse outcomes for children, such as increased feelings of self-consciousness, increased feelings of anxiety, and reduced self-worth. These findings suggest that researchers need to better understand children’s experiences on social media, and VR can be a superior technology to facilitate this understanding.
How Can Virtual Reality be Used to Research Children’s Social Behavior?
VR can be used to facilitate research on social media use among children. VR technology can be used by placing children in virtual environments that mimic real-world social media platforms, like a virtual classroom or playground, which can help researchers better understand how children use these platforms, explore the features and functionality of their design, and identify potential areas of concern. VR can also create “mixed reality” experiences that combine elements of the natural world with computer-generated imagery. One example of a mixed reality VR experience is being surrounded by a virtual crowd of people while being interviewed, similar to being interviewed by a large audience in real life. This VR experience can help researchers understand how children respond to being in the spotlight and having an audience respond to their ideas or communications.
Drawbacks of Virtual Reality for Researching Children’s Behaviour
VR technology has many benefits for research. However, VR may have some drawbacks for studying children’s social media behavior. First, children may not be willing to participate in VR research studies. Young people may not be as interested in participating in VR experiences as adults and may be more hesitant to engage with VR experiences due to developmental differences. Another potential shortcoming of VR in studying social media behavior among children is that it may not accurately reflect their actual experiences. Behaviors explored in VR may not be the same as those experienced in real life, which may be particularly the case with children’s social media behavior, given developmental differences that may make children’s experiences on social media distinct from those of adults.
VR is a growing technological trend that has the potential to be used in many different research contexts. VR can be used to create experiences that are not possible in real life, like exploring the surface of Mars or being surrounded by a large audience. VR can also be used to create mixed reality experiences that combine elements of virtual imagery with real-world settings. VR can be beneficial in research exploring children’s social media behavior because it can overcome some of children’s reluctance to engage with real-life social situations.
Virtual Ethnography must be able to provide input on the negative impact of children’s dependence and involvement in social media. Researchers must conduct case studies to find answers to this phenomenon, for example, seeing how the mental development of children is very well known in cyberspace. Alternatively, those who are very sad if their content does not get enough viewers.
Therefore, Virtual Ethnography will provide a new perspective for us as social anthropology researchers in understanding Virtual Reality, which seems to influence humans in real life greatly. At the very least, this study will help researchers develop research strategy steps that focus on real life and cyberspace.