Is 3D Video Bad for Children’s Eyesight?


It’s hard to escape the recent entertainment phenomenon – 3D movies, video games and TV – when they are geared toward children.  But should we consider whether this technology could damage their eyesight?

Three-dimensional film gives viewers the impression of depth by quickly flicking between two separate images, and sometimes requires viewers to wear special glasses to see the effect.  This effect has been popularized in movie theaters and on TV, and video game creators have rolled out the feature in handheld video devices.

Recently, Nintendo has warned, “Children under six could be harmed by 3D games played on Nintendo’s forthcoming handheld console,” BBC News reported before releasing the Nintendo 3DS hand-held device that plays video games in 3D.

The game creator posted a health warning on the 3DS website reading, “specialists had warned of possible damage that could be caused by 3D games, which present different images to the right and left eye,” BBC reported.

The 3DS website continued to report that younger children should only play 2D versions of 3DS games, according to BBC.  “The new handheld has two screens, like older versions of the console, with the top screen being able to show 3D images without the need for special glasses,” BBC reported.

Nintendo urged parents to turn off the 3D function if the handheld device was going to be used by children under six years old.

Other companies that market 3D materials are also warning people about viewing 3D content.  “Sony, Samsung, LG and other manufacturers have now released health and safety guidance with their products,” BBC reported.  “Most echo Nintendo’s advice about young children, but advice also extends as far to those who have been drinking alcohol, pregnant women, senior citizens, people with heart problems, those who experience frequent drowsiness or are in need of sleep,” BBC reported.

Should we be wary of this potential health risk? Some say no.

“There is not anybody legitimate in the medical profession who has suggested that we’re jeopardizing the health of our children,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, in an online BBC news article.  “What people have said is that for very, very early eye development…there is some concern that there might be some issue of… straining the eyes.”

James Plotnik, MD, pediatric ophthalmologist at Arizona Pediatric Eye Specialists, does not think 3D content will interrupt eyesight development.

“Manufacturer warnings regarding the dangers of 3D took most eye care providers, including myself, by surprise,” Plotnik said.  “Most eye care professionals are well aware that some children and adults may experience headaches, eye fatigue, dizziness or other minor symptoms when watching 3D video content.  However, to my knowledge, there have been no studies that have documented any actual risk of damage to the child’s visual system by utilizing this new technology.”

Plotnik also said he does not see how or why using 3D technology would disrupt normal visual development.  “It seems as if these warnings may serve as a pre-emptive effort in case any ill effects were ever to be noted in the future.

“I have no professional concerns regarding watching 3D visual content,” he said.  “For instance, my children and I enjoy 3D movies, and we have no plans on changing our movie choices based on these warnings.”

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