Vision Advice for Gamers

My six-year-old son has suddenly turned into a video game addict!  After more than an hour of solid screen-staring and controller-button pushing, I usually have to force him to stop. Why?  Well, my gut tells me it’s unhealthy for anyone to spend that much time destroying virtual droids.  But, more than anything, I am worried that all that screen time is really bad for his vision! Turns out, this mom was right.  Although there is nothing actually in the video game that is damaging to your eyes, staring at a screen too long can lead to what is more of an “overuse” style eye problem. When you are staring at something for so long your eyes get tired and dry.  Excessive gaming shares many of the same challenges as working at your computer all day.  Your eyes are focusing on something up close for so long that your eye muscles don’t get to relax.  Eye strain (and sometimes neck or other muscle problems) can follow. The best advice for the video gamer who wishes to preserve his or her eye sight is pretty much the same advice that computer workers or people who read a lot would get:

Take a break and look away every five minutes

How realistic is that for a video gamer? I’m not sure.  I don’t know if there is a good “stopping point” in the game every five minutes.  And, sometimes I know that if you look away, you may miss something important in the game.  So, for my son I encourage him to look away between the game’s different levels.

Consider computer glasses

Another option to consider is getting some computer or reading glasses that would help alleviate eye strain.  These glasses would only be worn while the user was gaming or doing close up work of any kind.  In some cases, getting these kind of glasses would be a good preventive measure to help the gamer from developing nearsightedness. The good news is, some studies say there are actual visual benefits from video gaming.  Games can improve your visual reaction time, your visual ability to see object of interest in a crowded background (think of a moving “Where’s Waldo), and your ability to coordinate your other senses with your visual sense.  In fact, children or young adults with focusing problems can actually benefit from playing video games! It’s best to talk to your optometrist if you think video gaming is affecting your vision (or your child’s vision).  Call and make an appointment to see a licensed optometrist at your nearest America’s Best to find out more.  

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