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Virtual reality (VR) can serve as an opportunity for children to examine different experiences, identities, and hone an overall understanding of self. The ability to broaden their perspective and definition of identity can allow them to develop and diversify different facets of their persona. The digital sphere can also allow them to experiment with different identities while mitigating fears of humiliation and embarrassment. However, virtual reality can blur the lines between reality and fiction. In the early stages of child development, where children are beginning to understand the concept of self and comprehension of the senses, dissociation from reality can lead them to experience disconnection from society.


Neil Postman authored The Disappearance of Childhood (1982), which examines how the pervasiveness of television and media technology cultivate malleability in the societal definition of childhood and its perception over an extensive period of time. Postman argued that childhood is a protected facet of life, and the exposure to adult ideas and life experiences through technology and media have jeopardized the sanctity and protectedness of childhood: 


Almost all of the characteristics we associate with adulthood are those that are (and were) either generated or amplified by the requirements of a fully literate culture: the capacity for self-restraint, a tolerance for delayed gratification, a sophisticated ability to think conceptually and sequentially, a preoccupation with both historical continuity and the future, a high valuation of reason and hierarchical order It is a definition that does not exclude children, and therefore what results is a new configuration of the stages of life (Postman, 101). 


Most of the traits we associate with adulthood are linked to cultures where literacy and education are at the forefront of social schemas. However, since the inception of television and media technology, many of the common traits among adults have been found in children. Children are exposed to complex ideas at a younger age. While this can allow children to think abstractly and critically, this falls under the assumption that children have an inherent desire to learn, analyze, and develop complex thoughts. With the lack of distinction between childhood and adulthood, it calls for a recomposition of life stages and a newly developed perspective of what it means to be a child in the digital age. 


In What Is a Child? Childhood, Psychoanalysis, and Discourse by Michael Gerard Plastow, the author prefaces the different contexts that skew the definition of a child:


From the perspective of the law, a childs age implies that he or she is permitted to do certain things and not others. For there to be a child also suggests the presence of parents or carers who take responsibility for the child (Plastow, 3). 


Legally, the term child is based on the demarcation of actions that can and cannot be performed, and acknowledges the presence of parents and caretakers who take legal responsibility or custody of the child. However, if the social construction of childhood is not only a social artifact (as coined by Postman) but also a malleable vestige, how do the blurred lines between reality and fantasy in virtual reality create a dissonance in children? How does the duality between the changed and unchanged nature of childhood affect child development and long-term understanding of childhood? 

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