3-D video games unlikely to damage children's eyes

January 8, 2011 - 0:0

Despite Nintendo's recent warning that children ages 6 and younger shouldn't play games in 3-D mode on the company's upcoming 3DS portable video game system, eye doctors say parents shouldn't be overly concerned that their kids' eyesight could be damaged by the toy.

""This is just a precaution by Nintendo,"" said Martin Banks, an optometry and vision science professor at University of California, Berkeley. ""No one's shown anything that this is a direct concern for kids less than 6 years of age.""
Nintendo recently posted a warning on its Japanese website that playing games on the device might make some people feel sick, and could be dangerous to young children's developing vision. In an official statement from Nintendo of America, spokesman Charles Scibetta said, ""Nintendo's position is children 6 and under should not use the 3-D feature of Nintendo 3DS, and parents should use the parental controls feature to restrict access to the 3-D mode.""
The video game device is set to be released by March, and will sport a 3.53-inch LCD display that enables 3-D vision without the need for special glasses, according to Nintendo. The device also includes a 3-D depth slider that players can use to adjust the level of the 3-D effect.
Dr. David Hunter, chief of ophthalmology at Children's Hospital Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School, said Nintendo was just being ""overly cautious, since the science behind the concern is that the child's developing visual system is sensitive at that age.""
A child who plays the 3DS is unlikely to suffer any permanent problems caused by playing with the toy, Hunter told MyHealthNewsDaily. But kids' vision is more easily impacted when they're younger — they can develop problems including their vision becoming blurry in one eye, or they can become cross-eyed — so Nintendo likely did not want to take any chances that the company could be held liable for such problems if they arise, he said.
Games are worse than television
3-D entertainment — called ""stereo"" 3-D, to differentiate it from our real, 3-D world — has infiltrated television and movies, and now gaming systems, Banks said. The technology works by off-setting two slightly different images to create a three-dimensional effect.
But the off-setting of the images creates a conflict between the way our eyes focus and how our brain processes distance, he said. This can lead to eye fatigue and discomfort, according to a 2008 study Banks published in the Journal of Vision.
Headache, eye strain and fatigue are other possible side effects of watching 3-D images, Banks said.
A person's distance from the screen and how much the content appears to pop off the screen can also make a difference in causing eye strain and fatigue, according to Banks' study.
""If the content stays near the screen, meaning you're not popping characters way in front or behind the screen, then we found people don't have bad symptoms,"" Banks said. ""So from that, we'd say video games are more of a concern than television, and television is more a concern than cinema"" because video game screens are closer to people's faces than a 3-D movie in a theater.
Still, no research has established a limit on the amount of time a child should spend watching stereo 3-D images, Banks said.
(Source: myhealthnewsdaily.com)