NYT VR - New York Times

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
NYT VR - New York Times App Poster Image
Immersive experience inside the (often intense) headlines.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn a lot from spending some time in another's shoes, immersed in someone else's world. There's great learning potential in exploring these spaces and looking into faces of people who surround you in the virtual experience. As more stories become available, kids will be able to encounter all sorts of different locations and people and feel as though they have a first-person perspective of contexts they might not experience otherwise. Though NYT VR - Virtual Reality Stories the NYTimes isn't offering instructional content, it is connecting kids virtually to events and people all around the world.

Ease of Play

It's pretty easy to get started, but it can be tough to understand how you're supposed to interact with the app while your device is in a viewer such as Google Cardboard. A little more guidance would help.

Violence

Some stories of war include some harrowing first-person descriptions of violence; take a look before you share with your kids.

Sex

There are some oblique references to sex and sexuality but nothing graphic. 

Language
Consumerism

There's sponsored content interspersed between the news-related content; it's well marked, but younger kids may not be especially savvy about the distinction between the two.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are some references to and images of people drinking and smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that NYT VR - Virtual Reality Stories the NYTimes is a virtual-reality app that takes users inside 360-degree video news stories. Users can explore the stories using a paper virtual-reality viewer such as Google Cardboard or simply use their device. One of the first available stories features people displaced by war, which might be intense for some kids. Also, there is advertising in the app. As more stories become available, parents may want to preview the content before their kids watch. Because of the immersive nature of virtual reality, users may find the experience much more intense than watching on a traditional screen, and some may experience symptoms of motion sickness. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the kinds of information collected and shared.

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What's it about?

NYT VR - VIRTUAL REALITY STORIES THE NYTIMES is the New York Times' virtual-reality-viewing app. First, choose an experience, then wait for it to download; the first ones launched include an 11-minute video called "The Displaced" that featured the stories of three children whose families were displaced by war and conflict in Africa, the Middle East, and eastern Europe. Other videos take users inside a walk through New York City and through experiences created for advertisers including BMW Mini and GE. Next, choose whether you'll use your iOS device with or without a VR viewer such as Google Cardboard. After your download is complete, launch the viewer to watch a video that's viewable in all directions. Move the viewer to see the video above, below, and all around you. When text appears, it appears at three points in the experience -- to the left, right, and directly behind you -- so you can read subtitles in addition to viewing the landscape and people who surround you.

Is it any good?

Finding yourself standing beside a child as he runs through a refugee camp or perches on a wall by an old Soviet monument is emotionally affecting and fully delivered by this app. There are some moments when you catch the person holding the camera, and it's surprisingly exciting and emotionally affecting: It's quite a thing to look up and down and around and find yourself so completely immersed in someone else's world. With all that in mind, it's a heavy thing to share this experience with your kids. Some videos, such as "The Displaced," feature kids whose lives have been torn apart by war, which can be hard to talk about with kids; this app can be great for developing their perspective-taking and empathy, but be prepared to have some pretty intense conversations about what you see along the way. Also, some of the videos are more concentrated on selling products than telling news stories, so choose your viewing experience carefully. All that being said, if you take the time to incorporate thoughtful discussion before and after using the app, this could be a great vehicle for provoking thoughtful, in-depth discussions that help kids consider and examine what life might be like for people far away who aren't so different from them after all. Also note: Be careful standing up. You'll quickly find yourself wandering into a corner or stumbling over a desk, so planting yourself in a chair that spins might be a better option.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about virtual reality. What are the coolest things about it? Are there drawbacks? What are they? What might be some really helpful uses of virtual reality?

  • Talk about the news stories your kids encounter in the app and explain anything they might not understand or are curious about.

App details

For kids who love news and apps that inspire empathy

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