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Are Video Games Bad for Your Eyes?

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A whopping 41% of Americans play video games for more than 4 hours weekly. Exposure to digital screens for long hours can negatively impact one’s vision and eye health

Video games, per se, are not bad for your eyes. They’re sometimes even beneficial, for example, in vision therapy. It’s the amount of time you spend playing that causes concern. 

We delve deeper into how video games are bad for your eyes and what you can do to prevent damage to your eyesight. 

Computer Vision Syndrome

Also known as digital eye strain, are eye and vision-related issues caused by prolonged usage of digital devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, phones, and tablets. Computer vision syndrome occurs in both children and adults.

Playing video games for extended periods can be harmful to children’s eyes. They don’t filter blue light as well as adults and may be more sensitive to it. Here are some signs indicating your child is spending too much time playing video games, and it’s harming their eyes:

Dry eye disease can occur when an individual spends long hours in front of a computer screen, smartphone, tablet, or e-reader. Symptoms usually include eye irritation, burning, redness, gritty feeling, and the feeling of foreign materials in the eyes. 

Due to the low blink rate, this condition also results in a reduced amount of tears that keep the eyes lubricated, causing them to become irritated, resulting in dry eyes. 

Eyestrain results from glare and the extra visual focus that cause your eyes to work harder. The constant motion in video gaming, different than looking at text on paper, forces more movement and refocusing of the eyes, creating eyestrain and headaches. Symptoms usually include blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. 

Increased myopia caused by continuously focusing or overfocusing in front of the screen makes it difficult to change focus for objects at different distances. Symptoms usually include blurred distance vision and squinting. 

How to Protect the Eyes When Playing Video Games?

Video games shouldn’t harm your eyes or cause long-term implications if played in moderation and by incorporating the following tips. If you are a parent of a child who plays video games, remind them of these tips and be sure to schedule a children’s eye exam to screen for any problems early. 

  • Avoid sitting in front of a digital screen for more than a few hours in one sitting. Instead of long video gaming sessions, play for shorter periods. 
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Take blinking breaks or blink more often. On average, we blink around 15 times per minute, which is reduced to half when looking at screens. 
  • Use artificial tears, as needed, to prevent your eyes from drying out, keep them moist, and provide some relief.
  • Reduce glare and blue light with anti-reflective glasses and blue light blocking glasses.
  • Install screen glare reduction filters on your devices as these reduce the amount of light reflected on the screen. 
  • Avoid playing video games in dark rooms. Use overall soft lighting in the room instead.
  • Balance playing video games with outdoor play. It can reduce your risk of developing myopia or myopia progression. 
  • Apply the 20-20-20 rule: Take a break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 
  • Ensure the screen is free of dust and fingerprints to improve clarity. 
  • Maintain a safe distance from the screen, preferably at least 20 inches or 51 cm between your face and the screen. 
A young man playing video games on his phone

Protect Your Vision

There’s no doubt that with the increasing rise and popularity of video gaming, children and adults can become addicted to a point where they may spend hours in front of a screen. And while video gaming has some benefits: confidence building in children, improving strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination, and reaction time, some downsides can ultimately affect your vision.
The solution is to monitor time spent in front of the screen, take frequent breaks to rest your eyes, and actively take measures to protect your vision. If you are a parent whose child has pre-existing eye conditions or is concerned about their vision, book an appointment with McCauley Celin Eyecare Associates. Our comprehensive eye exams can detect vision problems that affect academic and work life.

Dr. Caitlin McCauley

Written by Dr. Caitlin McCauley

Dr. Caitlin “Caity” McCauley has been interested in optometry since she was 15 years old. In high school, she started at the family practice as an optometric assistant and never looked back.

Dr. McCauley graduated top 10 in her class at Ohio State University, first in 2003 with her Bachelor of Science and then in 2007 with her Doctorate of Optometry. She completed rotations in ocular disease and contact lenses, as well as externships at the Dayton VA hospital and with LASIK specialists in Canton, Ohio.

With a particular interest and passion for pediatric vision, Dr. McCauley remains the practice’s resident authority on children’s eye care, including myopia control. Supporting and interacting with her incredible patients brings Dr. McCauley a strong sense of fulfillment in her work.

More Articles By Dr. Caitlin McCauley

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