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Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in New Tampa FL
Bright Eyes Kids in Westchase Fl

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Minecraft & Your Child’s Eyes

minecraftMinecraft doesn’t come up in conversation every day at Bright Eyes Kids, but pretty close to it. I typically ask all my patients, young and old, what they do for fun and Minecraft is the first thing many kids say. And if you spend any time at a mall, school, or other place with kids, you will see lots of kids in Minecraft-themed t-shirts (but you might not get the jokes unless you have played it yourself.) And now Microsoft just bought the company that makes Minecraft for $2.5 Billion (with a B). Clearly they think someone is playing this game.

I don’t have a “love/hate” relationship with Minecraft. It is more of “respect/worry” relationship.

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There are many reasons why I respect Minecraft. I have read the story of how Minecraft came to be, and I must say, it is pretty cool: one guy making a game that became a community, mostly by himself. Being a huge Lego fan, I like the simplicity of building with digital blocks. I love all of the amazingly creative projects that dedicated players build.
But I do worry about all the Minecrafters. We have long known that Computer Vision Syndrome can affect office workers who spend their day on the computer. But children who spend a lot of time at the computer can develop the same symptoms. Simple Google searches show that Minecraft fans complain of blurry vision, headache, eye strain and red eyes, and they worry that the game is harming their eyesight.

Check out the infographic at the bottom of the post. It shows that kids are using devices for both fun and schoolwork. Parents tend to underestimate how much time their children use devices. Some kids use devices a lot – 7 hours or more each. I am betting that they do not find their off-screen homework as compelling as games like Minecraft.

Take this scenario: Parents bring in a child for an eye examination because their child is having headaches and blurry vision that only started in the last few months. When I ask if anything changed in this time, they will mention that their child got an iPad and have been playing Minecraft and other games. The evaluation confirms that the child is now having eyestrain and focusing problems from excessive device use.

This is more common than you might expect. In a recent AOA survey 4 out of 5 (or 83%) of kids say they have tired or blurry eyes after device use. That is a huge number!

Here are some suggestions to keep children’s eyes comfortable while using a device:

  • Check in with them, so you know how they are doing. Kids often don’t realize they are having problems.
  • Have them take frequent breaks (follow the 20-20-20 rule)
  • Limit their overall scree time and make them get outside.
  • Make sure they hold the device at a safe distance (Elbow distance)
  • Keep even room lighting
  • Wear reading glasses, if prescribed
If you have concerns about your children’s eyes or have concerns about the effect that device use may be having on their eyes and vision, call us to book an appointment. We would be happy to see your children at either Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Westchase or the office just for children, Bright Eyes Kids in New Tampa.

DrNateSig

 

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screen_time_infographic

A Warning about the Nintendo 3DS and Childrens Vision

Today there has been a lot of discussion about an unreleased hand-gaming system cleverly called the the Nintendo 3DS. The system is similar to the popular Nintendo DS, which has a small touch-screen, but the 3DS allows users to play games in 3D without the use of 3D glasses.

The DS can be a lot of fun and can even be used as therapy in some cases. However, its tiny screen and close viewing can cause eye fatigue, blurry vision, headaches, and discomfort with prolonged use. The best advice is to hold the game at Elbow Distance and take frequent breaks.

Not surprisingly, the new 3DS can provoke similar visual symptoms. Today, both CNN and the LA Times have both reported on the warning that Nintendo itself released:

“Vision of children under the age of 6 is in the developmental stage. Nintendo 3DS, 3-D, including 3-D movies and television, delivers 3-D images with different left and right eye images, which has a potential impact on the growth of children’s eyes.” (translation)

It is true that young children are still developing visual skills (adults do as well, just not as quickly) and it is likely that intense near work plays a role in the development of myopia or nearsightedness. So it is a good idea to minimize the amount of time young children spend on any near task, whether it be 2D or 3D. Playing outdoors is a great alternative.

For older kids and adults, the 3DS is probably a lot of fun. I definitely will try it out. But remember, as always, moderation is important. Take breaks every 20 or 30 minutes. If your eye doctor has prescribed glasses for reading, use them while playing. And if you do experience headaches, blurry or double vision, or other problems after playing the 3DS, be sure to have a thorough eye exam. That could be the indication of more serious problems.

UPDATE: For more info and background, see this VisionHelp post by Dr. Len Press.

See Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

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