A front page article in The Wall Street Journal on December 31, 2010 warned parents that children 6 years old and younger should not play 3-D games on the Nintendo soon-to-be released 3DS hand-held game machine. Nintendo is concerned that looking at 3-D images for a long period of time could have an adverse effect on the eyesight development of young children.
Nintendo should be applauded for discouraging young children from using their NEW 3D technology! The first six years after birth are critical years. The visual systems of young children are maturing along with their muscle control and their movement systems. Visual development is aided by movement. That’s why infants should be allowed plenty of “tummy time” to learn about how to manage their bodies while coping with gravity and to creep and crawl to explore their environment. Toddlers and older children should be involved with walking, running, skipping, swimming, drawing, coloring, playing with building blocks, etc. Visual development may be limited in children who are sedentary, whether they are restricted in a play pen or sitting on the sofa watching TV or playing video games, 3-D or not.
Nintendo also advised that, “. . . users should take a break every 30 minutes when playing games in 3-D format or stop playing immediately if they feel ill.” People of any age, who have difficulty in using their eyes as a team, may experience symptoms of nausea, dizziness or eye strain when using 3-D technology. Convergence insufficiency is a common problem in which the individual finds it difficult to efficiently point both eyes at near targets. The Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial, sponsored by the National Eye Institute, demonstrated that optometric vision therapy was the only method to significantly improve the symptoms and visual measurements associated with that eye coordination problem.
In summary, children should be encouraged to participate in movement rather than sedentary activities. It is good advice to take breaks when engaged in any viewing of near objects. If you feel ill while playing 3-D games, you should consult a developmental optometrist who can diagnose and treat conditions such as convergence insufficiency.
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This blog post was written by Dr. Dan Lack, from Lake Katrine NY. Dr. Lack is the author of the recently published article, Another joint statement regarding learning disabilities, dyslexia, and vision—A rebuttal.