As school ends and kids are free from class and homework, children spend an increasing amount of time playing video games. We often get questions about the effect of video games on eyesight. Read below to learn how video games can affect your child’s (or our) vision.
In today’s screen-centric world, children and adults alike are constantly on their mobile phones, tablets, computers, and watching television. There are dozens of ways to play video games today, at home, at work, and on the go. But could frequent playing of video games damage your vision?
Recent studies show that Americans spend over 10 hours a day on screens, with at least 1 hour of that playing video games. All this screen time could be negatively impacting vision in the long term, especially among children. So, how do video games affect vision?
COMPUTER VISION SYNDROME
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a term used by the American Optometric Association for digital eye strain. Using digital devices too frequently can cause eyestrain, dry eye, and pain in your neck and shoulders.
These symptoms are caused by glare and low screen contrast, which force your eyes to work harder than they usually need to see. Video games require the constant focus of the eyes, which can result in more frequent Computer Vision Syndrome than other use of electronic devices.
HOW CAN MY CHILD HAVE AN ATTENTION PROBLEM WITH READING BUT PLAY VIDEOS GAMES FOR HOURS?
When children play video games they are actually inducing an erratic eye tracking movement where their eyes are darting across the screen in random directions without much planning or controlled pattern. This type of reactive random movement is acceptable for video game playing but can hinder reading ability and focus for reading. The eye movement needed to read is a highly coordinated brain-eye muscle movement called a saccade where the eyes precisely move in tandon left to right from one stable target (i.e. letter or word) to the next. Playing hours upon hours of video games can get the brain and eye connections more adjusted to an erratic random-patterned fast-pace eye movement and make it much more difficult to control the eyes and visual attention for a sustained tracking movement for reading which ultimately can impact attention and accuracy to complete the task of reading. Oftentimes children with saccadic disorders (reading eye-tracking disorders) show visible signs of reading dysfunction such as skipping small words, guessing at words, confusing similar words, losing their place, poor attention and reduced comprehension. Children with this dysfunction also tend to not enjoy reading and avoid if for these reasons. The good news is that Vision Therapy can help by retraining the muscles in the eyes and the brain to communicate again and accurately in order to get the eyes back on track and to gain reading efficiency and attention for reading.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT VIDEO GAME EYE STRAIN?
With the prevalence of screens today, even if you’re not playing video games, it’s difficult to avoid eye strain and computer vision syndrome. However, you can follow some tips to improve your viewing habits and reduce vision damage from video games, including:
- Following the 20-20-20 rule. Stop using your electronic screen device every 20 minutes by looking at something more than 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help your eyes adjust and not stay locked to your media.
- Use proper lighting to reduce glare, so don’t play in the dark or in extreme sunlight.
- Don’t play video games for too many hours daily (more than two cumulative hours for school-aged children is ideal and more than three can be excessive). If you need to use a computer for your job, take breaks as frequently as you can and avoid additional screen time.
- Utilize a glare-reducing cover or get glasses with an anti-reflective or blue-light blocking coating which can reduce eyesight damage from video games.
HOW CAN GAMING HELP YOUR EYES?
Despite all these worries about video game eye strain and potential damage, playing in moderation can help with certain skills.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that playing video games can improve spatial resolution, allowing gamers to see objects clearer and easier than before. Some vision therapists have even had success using video games as a supplemental technique in treating amblyopia. It’s important to remember, however, that benefits only occur in moderation. Video games can create vision problems if played too frequently, but can be useful within reasonable limits.
If you suspect you or child may have an eye-tracking disorder that may be getting worse with excessive screen time or video use or other screen related vision damage, please call our office to schedule your complimentary consultation to see how our expert team can help you.