In the past, when kids were not in school, they mostly spent their time roaming the outdoors, playing games with friends and exploring the surrounding area.
Likewise, adults spent a large amount of their leisure time enjoying the outdoors, having barbecues, taking hikes, or pursuing home improvement projects.
Times have changed, however, and an increasing number of people of all ages are using their free time for digital entertainment.
This new world of computer screens and high-definition televisions force our eyes to overcome different challenges than the great outdoors, and with these new challenges comes new hazards and damage to our eyesight, as well as some surprising benefits.
Video games, as a pastime, have existed for just over 30 years, and their popularity increases every year. The current crop of home video game consoles have sold over 100 million units in North America alone, an unprecedented level of marketplace saturation for the video game industry.
So what effects can this increasingly popular hobby have on the eyesight of its devotees? The answer may surprise you.
Most video games require lengthy involvement to finish any particular game, forcing the player to stay focused on the screen during their playtime.
This can lead to the same issues caused by long-term television watching, including headaches, blurred vision, and even nearsightedness if frequent breaks aren’t taken to relax your eyes.
Prolonged bouts of video gaming can also cause symptoms very similar to Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS. Computer Vision Syndrome, as the name suggests, is caused by staring at a computer screen for an extended period of time without any significant breaks.
CVS, and the similar symptoms related to video games, can include blurry vision, eye irritation and light sensitivity, not to mention neck and shoulder pain.
These problems, except for the neck and shoulder pain, are caused by the way computers and televisions draw images on their screens using pixels. The neck and shoulder pain is caused by improper positioning of the computer monitor or television.
Protecting Your Vision
All of the dangers posed to your vision are easily addressed. Here’s a simple list of steps you can take to minimize the impact video games have on your eyesight:
- Make certain to position yourself properly. When playing a video game on a television, the player should be six to 10 feet from the screen. If using a computer, the very top of the monitor should be roughly at eye level.
- Take frequent breaks. Most vision specialists recommend taking a break every 20 to 30 minutes. During this break, look off into the distance to allow your eyes time to rest. Don’t force your eyes to focus on specific details of distant objects, just give them a rest as you take in the scene as a whole. Some optometrists also suggest looking at a distant object every 10 minutes, for 10 seconds at a time, throughout your work day or intense video game session; that what we call the 10-10-10 Rule.
- Reduce glare. Glares from other light sources or windows can force your eyes to work harder than they need to. Turn your television or monitor until no glare is visible to reduce the risk of eye strain.
Aside from the preventative measures listed above, it should be noted that proper nutrition is also important for maintaining healthy vision. Here’s a short list of a few of the nutrients important for maintaining healthy eyesight:
- Vitamin A: This is the big one. Vitamin A helps the retina function properly, and research has shown that it could also help reduce the effects of age-related vision problems. Carrots, and other yellow, orange, or red vegetables, are excellent sources of this nutrient.
- Lutein: this substance is found naturally in the retina, and can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Lutein can also be found in yellow, orange, and red vegetables.
- Selenium: Selenium helps your body absorb other nutrients and vitamins. The best places to find Selenium is in walnuts and seafood.
These aren’t the only important nutrients for vision maintenance, and the full list can seem quite daunting.
That’s why it’s recommended to take a multivitamin supplement, to make certain your eyes are getting the help they need. We do offer our own special blend of nutrients in the Rebuild Your Vision Ocu-Plus Formula, but so long as it has all of the necessary vitamins and minerals, any supplement can help. Make sure to do your research before buying.
Video Game Benefits
All of this discussion about the hazards of digital entertainment might lead some readers to believe that video games are all risk, no reward, and this is far from the case. Video games can help both children and adults improve in several important areas.
Hand-eye-coordination is an obvious one, but visual attention is less so. Visual attention, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the ability to focus on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things.
Playing action-oriented video games can give visual attention a boost, along with visual reaction time and visual ground discrimination.
Action games also improve a skill that traditionally deteriorates with age. Known as contrast sensitivity function, this ability allows people to differentiate between shades of colors displayed with a uniform background.
This ability is vital for reading, as well as driving at night, and it’s one of the first to fade with age.
It’s important to note, most of these benefits come from playing action-oriented video games only.
A study was performed comparing action games to a popular life-simulation title, and only the action games provided discernible benefits to the abilities listed above.
So, parents can breathe a sigh of relief. With healthy gaming habits, kids aren’t ruining their eyesight by playing video games, and both kids and adults can enjoy exciting benefits from their gaming.
Just make sure to take those breaks, eat the right foods or take a multivitamin, and, of course, go outside from time to time!