You may wonder whether allowing your child to play video games is a healthy pastime. Often, parents worry particularly about the effects this leisure activity may have on vision. The truth is playing video games can have both negative and positive effects on your child's eyes.
Spending too much time playing video games can take a toll on the eyes and may lead to conditions that can cause your child to experience eye and vision symptoms.
Eye fatigue. Watching the movements on a video screen requires the eyes to constantly change focus. This can make the eyes tired. Focusing intently on a video screen—especially for prolonged periods of time—can then make it difficult to focus on objects and images other than those on the screen.
Eye fatigue, or eyestrain, can make your child's eyes sore and itchy. He or she may become more sensitive to light and develop blurry or double vision. These symptoms usually go away once your child rests his or her eyes, but, if they persist, schedule an appointment with an eye care specialist.
Dry eye. As your child concentrates on what's happening on the video screen, he or she may blink less often. Less blinking causes tears that lubricate the eyes to evaporate more quickly, leading to dry, irritated eyes. Consequently, your child's eyes may be red and sting or feel scratchy. Eye fatigue and blurry vision are other common symptoms of dry eye.
Headache. Playing video games can make your child's eyes tired. Some video games can also lead to motion sickness. The eyes think that the body is moving even though it isn't. As a result, your child may suffer motion sickness and the accompanying symptoms, which may include headache, nausea, and dizziness.
Clenching the jaw while playing video games can bring on headaches as well. As your child becomes excited by the game, tensing the jaw muscles can cause muscles in the head and neck to tighten, triggering a headache. Tension headaches can cause light sensitivity and pain in or around the eyes. Headaches—regardless of the source—often cause blurry vision.
Playing video games isn't entirely bad for the eyes. As long as you encourage your child to play in a well-lit area and take frequent breaks away from the video screen to give his or her eyes a rest, there are some positive benefits to playing action-oriented video games.
Increases visual reaction time. Visual reaction time is the speed at which your child can respond to a visual stimulus. A faster response is beneficial in conditions of low light and poor visibility.
Improves contrast sensitivity function. An important aspect of visual function, contrast sensitivity function is the ability to differentiate objects of different intensities of color from the background—especially when picking out objects from a low-light background.
Enhances visual attention. Visual attention is the brain's ability to filter out, or ignore, irrelevant information in the visual field when focusing on a particular object or image.
For more information about the effects playing video games has on your child's vision, talk to an eye doctor like those at Elite Family Eye Care.