I love to game. While I’m not a professional video gamer — oh, I only wish — I fall somewhere between casual and hardcore. I love the thrill of the competition and the entertainment value of the activity. However, I’m also cognizant of the drawbacks to gaming. I don’t have a killer tan, I’m not completely ripped, I don’t have perfect posture. And I wouldn’t let my young children — if I had any — play the new Nintendo 3DS.
The Nintendo 3DS went on sale Sunday in the United States. Like the old DS [dual-screen], it is a handheld gaming device with two screens, top and bottom. The difference is that the top screen can display 3-D images without the need for 3-D glasses. The machine can even take 3-D pictures.
Basically, it should be the best Nintendo DS yet. The problem is that the manufacturer warns that the 3-D screen could damage the immature vision of children who are six or younger. The 3-D screens send different images to the left and right eyes, which is how they create a mirage of 3-D perspective. For some people, this can cause eyestrain and headaches. For young children, whose eyes are still developing, doctors aren’t sure what the long-term effects could be from constant use of a product like the 3DS.
However, there is disagreement in the ranks. According to a March 18 article from The Miami Herald, Dr. Michael Duenas, associate director for health sciences and policy for the American Optometric Association, said use of the 3DS could help identify children who need vision therapy at a time in their growth when vision problems are much easier to correct. On the other hand, some ophthalmologists — essentially optometrists with medical doctor degrees — say it is unlikely this would be the case. Nintendo said it just wanted to be careful, hence the warning.
I’m a gamer, and I love gaming. I can also assure you that hurting eyes is the last thing gamers would want for their kids. After all, one needs eyes to play most video games. If researchers can scientifically prove that using the 3DS is diagnostically beneficial, by all means, let’s use it. Good eye health is something to promote. But until that time, why take risks? When there is as much disagreement as there is on this issue, safety seems to be the much more prudent course of action.
While Nintendo is essentially just providing itself liability protection with its warning, the fact is we still aren’t sure what these devices could do to children’s eyes in the long term. Like Nintendo, there is no reason for you or for me to take chances. Hold off on the 3DS for younger children, and there is much less risk of damage.
Jason Lam is a junior mathematics major from Chicago.