As with television viewing, eye care professionals generally agree that video games will not harm your child’s eyes or vision if you follow a few viewing tips. While there is usually less strain involved in gaming than in doing close work such as sewing or reading, being in front of a screen for long stretches of time can leave your eyes feeling dry, strained and fatigued. Depending on your child’s condition, such as uncorrected hyperopia or myopia, astigmatism or wearing multifocals, your child’s eyes could be exerting extra focusing effort or be forced to work harder to maintain a clear image when viewing the screen. Even children with perfect vision may experience symptoms such as blurred vision, eyestrain and headaches while playing video games.
Your child requires excellent visual skills to read, learn and play successfully. To help ease the stress of video games on your child’s eyes, consider the following tips:
- Make playrooms eye-friendly by reducing glare and offering soft overall lighting.
- Encourage periodic breaks from computer and video screens to give eyes a break. Balance video game time with plenty of creative, outdoor and quiet play.
- Keep their screen free of fingerprints and dust, as both can reduce vision clarity.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, encourage your child to take a 20 second break and to focus their eyes on something at least 20 feet away. This will give their eyes a much-needed break and reduce some of the symptoms mentioned earlier.
- Remind them to blink. Did you know that on average we blink 12 times per minute, but when we’re in front of a screen, we only blink 5 times per minute? That can add up to dry eyes. Relieve the discomfort by reminding your child to blink.
- Discourage playing video games in a dark room. When the room is totally dark, the contrast between the screen and the surrounding area is too great for comfortable and efficient vision. When the room is softly illuminated, undesirable contrast is kept to a minimum.
- Adapt the screen’s brightness and contrast to room lighting. This will ensure visual compatibility, as excessively bright lighting tends to reduce contrast on the screen and “wash out” the picture.
- Encourage your child to sit away from the screen. Though close-up viewing is generally not harmful, viewing at a distance allows for picture details to appear sharper and better defined and the screen lines and defects will be less apparent. If your child persists in playing video games from a short distance, schedule an eye examination for them with your optometrist; children who like to sit too close to the screen may be nearsighted (myopic).
While symptoms like headaches, eye strain, blurred vision, eye irritation, double vision, excessive tearing or dry eyes, pain in the eyes or excessive blinking or squinting can be effects of playing video games, any time you experience these symptoms, you should visit your doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination. They may also indicate a more serious vision problem, and there is no substitute for the precious gift that is your child’s vision.