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.
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. Every hour of game play is an hour not spent outdoors. The world of computer screens and consoles force 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 20 minutes, for 20 seconds at a time, throughout your work day or intense video game session; that what we call the 20-20-20 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.
Boost Your Nutrition
Aside from the preventative measures listed above, proper nutrition is also important for maintaining healthy vision.
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.
Both kids and adults can benefit from the vision benefits of gaming. Just make sure to take those breaks and eat the right foods. And, of course, go outside from time to time!
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.