Photo by Alex Carmichael on Unsplash

Gamers warned, excessive screen time could lead to vision problems

Photo by Alex Carmichael on Unsplash

Unsurprisingly since the outbreak of COVID-19, the video game industry has experienced 35 per cent growth.

This growth is reflected in new data from the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, which revealed that two thirds of Australians now play video games, with 68 per cent being working age adults.

Adult players are spending on average 81 minutes per day playing games, presumably in between time spent on computers, in front of smartphones and TV screens.

Conversations around excessive screen time and the associated risks to vision are often linked to children and how parents can balance their child's screen time with green time, but what about adults? Particularly those adults whose entertainment and relaxation is centered around gaming and digital devices?

Risks of excessive screen time on adult vision

The eyes were not designed to stare at short distances or at bright artificial light for extended periods of time. For most of us, our eyes prefer to focus further than six metres away, so viewing digital screens for extended periods of time forces our eyes to work harder.

When we focus on something close up for too long, and don’t adjust our line of vision or relax our muscles, the eyes fatigue and tire out. This may lead to sore, dry or irritated eyes.

Having sore or dry eyes is more discomforting than it is threatening to vision, however excessive screen time can lead to a diagnosis of computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain.

What is digital eye strain?

Digital eye strain is the name for a group of eye and vision symptoms that might be experienced as a result of extended periods of viewing digital devices.

According to the 2020 Vision Index, 78 per cent of Australians have experienced eye strain while using a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Signs you’re suffering from digital eye strain include:

  • Eye strain
  • Tired and/or dry eyes
  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Headaches

Ways to manage time spent in front of digital devices

It’s important for people who enjoy gaming for entertainment and relaxation purposes are also splitting this up with other recreational activities and hobbies that don’t involve digital screens.

Realistically, in a modern world, it’s hard to avoid screens completely. There are however some easy steps we can all take to better manage our screen time, such as:

  • Take regular breaks from the screen by heading outside for a short walk
  • Call a friend or family member to chat, instead of texting or messaging on social media
  • Take a break in between work and gaming, so you’re not going from one digital device to another
  • Limit your gaming to a certain time of day and set a maximum time frame for playing
  • If you’re hesitant to reduce your gaming time, consider ways you can cut down other excessive screen use, such as reducing your time spent on social media
  • Implement the 20:20:20 rule - after every 20 minutes of screen time, shift your eyes to look at an object around 20 metres away, for at least 20 seconds.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, changes to your vision or are concerned about your eyesight, visit your local optometrist for expert advice.

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