March 19, 2011

Optometrists Recommend Nintendo 3DS Use For Children

U.S. eye specialists are dismissing warnings that the Nintendo 3DS screen should not be used by children younger than six.

The optometrists say that it is a good idea to get your kids to try the 3D screen, especially if they are younger than six, reports the Associated Press (AP).  They said that the device will not cause any harm and could help catch vision disorders that have to be caught early in order to be fixed.

"The 3DS could be a godsend for identifying kids under 6 who need vision therapy," Dr. Michael Duenas, associate director for health sciences and policy for the American Optometric Association, told AP's Peter Svensson.

The $250 handheld console will go on sale in the U.S. on March 27.  It features two screens, one of which is for glasses-free 3D gaming.

The device also comes equipped with a pair of cameras that can be used to take 3D pictures.

Duenas said that if a child does not see the 3D effect on the 3DS then it is a sign they may have a vision disorder such as amblyopia.

3D systems send different images to the right and left eyes, which is a technique that creates an illusion of depth.  Optometrists say that these systems can help isolate problems that have to do with the way the eyes move.

According to the American Optometric Association, only 15 percent of preschool children get a comprehensive eye exam that could catch these problems.  Studies have found that over half of all juvenile delinquents have undiagnosed and untreated vision problems.

"This has presented my profession, optometry, a wonderful opportunity," Dr. Joe Ellis, the president of the optometrists' association, told AP regarding the advantages of a child having a 3DS.

However, other optometrists like Dr. David Hunter, a pediatric ophthalmologist affiliated with the Children's Hospital in Boston and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, are not too keen of the idea of having children use 3DS systems.

He told AP that the idea that off-the-shelf 3D games or movies could help screen for vision problems such as amblyopia is "a little perplexing."

He said that children with amblyopia do not have much depth perception in real life.  This means that if they do not see depth in 3D screens than they might not say anything because it is no different than what they already perceive around them.

Hunter told AP that it is not impossible that it could help, but it is "all sort of exploration and speculation."

Nintendo issued a warning in December with its 3DS that said "there is a possibility that 3-D images which send different images to the left and right eye could affect the development of vision in small children."

Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, says the company is "aware of all the work that has been done in the field" and issued the warning based on that work.

Optometrists have not seen any sign that 3D screens can cause lasting damage, but they also acknowledge that not much is known about how 3D viewing affects humans. 

Dr. Jim Sheedy, director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., told AP that parents should limit kids' use of the 3DS.

"Is there a limit on how much a child should be viewing 3-D? Yeah. How much is it? I don't know. Let's use some sound judgment," he said.

He said the number one health issue associated with console and computer gaming is obesity.

"Kids should be out running around," he said.


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