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. Video games and vision were the least of their worries.
Times have changed, however, and an increasing number of people of all ages are using their free time for digital entertainment.
Video games have existed for nearly 70 years, and their popularity increases every year. Today, this global industry is worth over $100 billion dollars. Every hour of gameplay is an hour not spent outdoors. The world of computer screens and consoles forces our eyes to overcome different challenges than being in nature. With these new challenges comes new hazards to our eyesight, as well as some surprising benefits.
So what effects can this increasingly popular hobby have on the eyesight of its devotees? The answer may surprise you.
Most video games require a lengthy time commitment to finish any particular game, thus 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.
Many of these problems are caused by the way computers and televisions draw images on their screens using pixels. The neck and shoulder pain comes on due to 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 ten feet from the screen with knees at 90 degree angles. If using a computer, the very top of the monitor should be roughly at eye level. You shouldn’t have to tilt your head to see the screen.
- 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 workday or intense video game session. This is 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. Adjust your television or monitor settings until no glare is visible to reduce the risk of eye strain.
- Try blue-light-blocking eyewear. This will help negate some of the negative effects of too much screen time.
Boost Your Nutrition
Aside from the preventative measures listed above, 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, fish oil, and dark leafy greens are excellent sources of this nutrient.
- Lutein: You can find this antioxidant in the retina and it can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. You can also find lutein in yellow and green vegetables, as well as egg yolks.
- Selenium: Selenium helps your body absorb other nutrients and vitamins. The best places to find Selenium are 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 experts recommend taking a multivitamin supplement to make certain your eyes are getting the help they need. Plus, some diets and allergies restrict you from eating foods with these nutrients. We offer our own special blend of nutrients in the Rebuild Your Vision Ocu-Plus Formula, if you can’t get them naturally from your diet. Your eyes and vision will thank you.
Video Games Vision 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. Clearly, the connection between video games and vision isn’t as one-sided as it seems.
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 compared the visual benefits of action games to non-action games. Only the action game 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. Both kids and adults can enjoy exciting vision benefits from their gaming. Just make sure to take those breaks and eat the right foods or take a multivitamin. And, of course, go outside from time to time!