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      Usability and Feasibility of an Internet-Based Virtual Pedestrian Environment to Teach Children to Cross Streets Safely.

      Virtual reality

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          Child pedestrian injury is a preventable global health challenge. Successful training efforts focused on child behavior, including individualized streetside training and training in large virtual pedestrian environments, are laborious and expensive. This study considers the usability and feasibility of a virtual pedestrian environment "game" application to teach children safe street-crossing behavior via the internet, a medium that could be broadly disseminated at low cost. Ten 7- and 8-year-old children participated. They engaged in an internet-based virtual pedestrian environment and completed a brief assessment survey. Researchers rated children's behavior while engaged in the game. Both self-report and researcher observations indicated the internet-based system was readily used by the children without adult support. The youth understood how to engage in the system and used it independently and attentively. The program also was feasible. It provided multiple measures of pedestrian safety that could be used for research or training purposes. Finally, the program was rated by children as engaging and educational. Researcher ratings suggested children used the program with minimal fidgeting or boredom. The pilot test suggests an internet-based virtual pedestrian environment offers a usable, feasible, engaging, and educational environment for child pedestrian safety training. If future research finds children learn the cognitive and perceptual skills needed to cross streets safely within it, internet-based training may provide a low-cost medium to broadly disseminate child pedestrian safety training. The concept may be generalized to other domains of health-related functioning such as teen driving safety, adolescent sexual risk-taking, and adolescent substance use.

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