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What Do I Need to Know About Video Games and My Child’s Eyes?

What Do I Need to Know About Video Games and My Child’s Eyes?

Most children love a good game of Fortnite or Call of Duty. However, too much screen time can come with some negative side effects.

One of the most common conditions associated with excess screen time is digital eye strain (aka computer vision syndrome). And believe it or not, but both kids and adults are at risk!

So, “What do I need to know about video games and my child’s eyes?” Below, we’ll cover all the basics so that you know how to keep your child’s eyes safe from screen time in the future.

What do I need to know about video games and my child’s eyes?

Consider this: most of our children spend a good portion of their days on screens at school, but then after coming home, they play video games. Every day, children ages 8 to 18 spend over seven hours in front of digital devices. Consider how much screen time that is!

The American Heart Association suggests that two hours of screen time at most per day is optimal. That is five hours less than what children are spending on average in front of a screen every day. 

For children younger than age 5, one hour per day is better. Research suggests that excess screen time has caused children to default to sedentary lifestyles, which can result in many health issues, though the impact has yet to be confirmed. 

Here’s what you need to know about video games and your child’s eyes:

Too much time playing can cause eye strain.

If you work on a computer for long periods, you have probably experienced symptoms of computer vision syndrome. Often, symptoms of this can include blurry vision, fatigue, and headaches. When your child spends too much time playing video games, they can experience these same symptoms and more--and they may not be telling you. 

Children also tend to have so much fun playing video games that they can lose track of time, and if they don’t take breaks from the digital screens, they can experience video game eye strain, which will be a lot like what you experience by working on the computer for too long. 

If this extended game and screen time is a regular occurrence, you may want to consider blue-light glasses as an option for your child. It will help with video game eye strain and keep these symptoms at bay.

Too much time on video games can make your child have trouble focusing. 

When a child is playing a video game, they are prone to have to adjust their focus on the moving screen. Their eyes can also stay glued to the screen, which can make it challenging for them to look away.

Concentrating on the screen can present issues for your children, making it hard for them to focus on other things. If you notice your child is straining their eyes to see the screen, they have probably reached their eyes’ limits. Make sure your child takes frequent breaks away from the screen to rest their eyes.

Excess time on video games can lead to eye irritation and dry eyes.

Video games are fun and interactive, but they keep your child’s attention. When games hold your child’s attention, that causes them to blink less often. This can make your child’s eyes dry and irritated, which is another symptom of video game eye strain. 

To prevent eye irritation while your child is playing video games, encourage your child to implement the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent in front of the screen, have them look at an object 20 feet away and focus on that object for 20 seconds. This will keep your child from experiencing eye strain and prevent agitation. 

Increased video game time can up your child’s risk for myopia.

Myopia (nearsightedness) is a refractive error that can cause problems with seeing things at a distance. Too much screen time and video game time can make a child more likely to get nearsighted.

One of the signs of myopia is if your child claims that the TV screen is blurry when they’re playing video games. This condition is the most common once kids start school and can worsen up to age 20 or so. 

How can I protect my kids’ eyes from screens? 

Video games can be harmful to kids’ eyes, but they’re not all bad. Video games have been shown to have positive effects, too. For instance, video games can help children develop excellent problem-solving skills

However, if you want to protect your child’s eyes due to the prolonged time in front of the screen, these tips can help:

#1: Limit your child’s video game time.

The simplest way to protect your child’s eyes from video games is to set a limit on how long they can play. That can help prevent video game eye strain and various other symptoms. 

A great way to set expectations with your child is to let them know how long they can play their games. That way, they won’t be blindsided or confused when you turn off the screen. Instead, tell them they have an hour to play before it’s outside time. 

#2: Avoid digital devices and video games one hour or more before bed.

One thing that most people don’t know about screen time is that it can affect your child’s sleep schedule. How does this work? It affects your melatonin levels. That can make it hard for your child to sleep and thus cause problems the next day when they’re at school, making it difficult for them to focus and get their work done. 

What you can do is power off your kids’ devices and video games an hour or more before their regular bedtime. So, if they go to sleep at 9 p.m., make it a goal to turn off their devices and games by 8 p.m. at the latest to help them sleep better that night. 

#3: Schedule an eye exam for your child. 

At your child’s eye exam, the eye doctor will assess your child for eye problems. Be sure to let them know about how often your child uses screens. If it’s more than average, there’s a good chance that your child’s eye doctor will recommend blue-light glasses. 

These glasses can help limit the impact of digital eye strain on your child’s eyes from spending too much on screens via video games, computers at school, and so forth.  

By staying educated about the side effects of video games on your child’s eyes, you can help them make healthy decisions that prevent digital eye strain, video game eye strain, and other eye issues that may impact them down the line. 

Summary: How do video games affect the eyes?

It’s important to know that video game eye strain is real, and asking the right questions (including, “What do I need to know about video games and my child’s eyes?”) will help you understand what you can do to keep your kid’s eyes as safe as possible. 

Being informed is always important. Here’s what you need to know about video games and your child’s eyes:

  • Digital screen time and video game time should be limited based on your child’s age.
  • Video game eye strain causes symptoms similar to computer vision syndrome in adults.
  • Eye irritation is a symptom of playing video games for a prolonged time.
  • Limited time on video games and blue-light glasses can help your child’s eyes.

If you feel your child is spending too much time on video games or looking at a digital screen too long, consider limiting their time to one to two hours per day or ordering blue-light glasses. An eye appointment is all you need to learn how blue-light glasses can benefit your child’s eye health.


This blog was originally published on October 26, 2019, and expanded in August 2022.  


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