With the holiday season in full effect, you can bet that many kids will be receiving a video game or a new system in the next few weeks. In fact, one million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold in North America in the first 24 hours of its recent launch. Sadly, I was not one of those lucky ones.
Since the dawn of the television age, parents have been wondering “How much is too much?” After home video games were introduced, the question became even more relevant. Below you will find some of the most common concerns parents have and how to address each issue.
1) Will video games ruin my kid’s eyes? Certainly, overuse of the visual system, especially up close, can lead to eyestrain, fatigue, redness of the eyes, and eye rubbing, but it cannot be stated conclusively that video games will directly lead to permanent damage.
2) How much time should I let my kids play video games? 20 minutes of game play followed by a break is plenty. As for how much cumulative time per day, you are the best judge – but at our house we have a maximum of one hour of screen time daily. Then again, I must be fairly conservative because a recent study stated that 85% of kids use an electronic device up to four hours a day.
3) Are video games good for anything? Besides allowing you to have some fun with your kids, a recent study demonstrated that some video games can improve hand-eye coordination. Also, in young children who have parental participation, certain video games can improve literacy.
So, while allowing your child to play Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty 24/7 may be a lousy idea, a small amount gaming with your child can be a good thing. Remember, about 60% of video game titles are rated “E” for everyone, so let’s have some fun!
~David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association