Video Games and Eyestrain

Many parents wonder if spending too much time playing video games can hurt their child. Questions arise about obesity and aggressive behavior. While extended periods of time playing video games may possibly affect a children's weight and behavior, many parents often forget about the possible effects on their eyes and vision.

Girl playing video game
Rebecca Nelson / Getty Images

Playing video games for extended amounts of time can cause children to experience many of the same symptoms seen in computer vision syndrome in adults. Extensive viewing of the game screen can lead to eye discomfort, fatigue, blurry vision, and headaches.

Kids seem to become so engrossed in video games that they forget to take breaks. Prolonged gameplay without significant breaks can cause eye focusing problems, as well as eye irritation.

Focusing Problems 

The eyes focus much differently on a video screen than on a flat surface, such as a piece of notebook paper. When looking at printed material, the brain and eyes understand exactly what distance at which to focus.

When looking at a video screen, the eyes are constantly changing focus, making the eyes very tired. Furthermore, when playing video games, the eyes tend to become "locked in" to the screen. This may make it difficult for the eyes to focus easily on other objects, even long after the video game is turned off.

Eye Irritation

Kids tend to blink much less frequently while absorbed in a video game or other video screen use. This reduced blinking can significantly affect the flow of tears, sometimes resulting in dryness and irritation.

Advice for Parents

If your children enjoy playing video games, encourage them to take frequent breaks. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and have them do something else for 5 minutes when the buzzer sounds. Also, make sure your children sit as far away as possible from the video screen.

The minimum recommended distance in the case of console games, such as PlayStation, Gamecube, Xbox or Wii, is 6 feet, while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 10 feet for television screens (depending on the size of the screen), 2 feet for desktop computer screens or laptops, and 1 foot for mobile phones.

Setting guidelines for your children will help prevent the negative effects that prolonged video gameplay can have on their eyes.

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