Can video games damage your child's sight?

Ask the Pediatrician

My 11-year-old son spends a lot of time in the dark. By which I mean he plays video games and watches TV in his room with al the lights off for a few hours a day. I've always been told that it is bad for your eyes to do that, but when I tell him that, he thinks I'm just trying to get him to stop playing games and watching TV. Can you give me some more information about this so I can explain to him why it's unhealthy? - T.W., Weston
According to a recent study presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting, it appears that too much time on video games or TV means your child is more at risk for nearsightedness. On the flip side, each hour spent outdoors decreases the risk of nearsightedness. Why is this?
While I am not an ophthalmologist, this study simply makes sense! The senses that we use, here vision, are the ones that we cultivate and grow. If we only look at things that are close like video games or TV, it seems reasonable that our ability to see things far away would not be strengthened. If we play outside, we are looking at things both near and far.

In addition to the help with seeing farther away, outside play is good for our general and mental health. Children that spend less time inside playing video games or watching TV and more time exercising are less likely to be overweight, have diabetes (type 2) or be depressed. Also, exercise helps boost self-esteem and improves sleep. Whatever reason you use, more outside play/exercise and decreased TV/videogame time is good for your son.
Hope this helps!

My 18-month-old daughter recently fell at the playground and started favoring her right leg. There was no redness, swelling, bruising, or tenderness. X-rays were normal. The doctor told me to give her Motrin and within hours she was back to herself. We were told it could be a muscle strain. Should I be concerned that there is more going on here? -- Vanessa of Denver, CO

As children are growing and learning to walk, bumps and bruises are sure to follow. In your daughter's case, I am relieved that x-rays were normal and that the injury seemed to improve with ibuprofen (Motrin). These facts would make a soft-tissue injury (bruising/sprain/strain) more likely.

When the mechanism of injury seems insignificant or if the event was not witnessed, it is helpful to know if there was fever present or if there had been a recent illness. Though soft-tissue injuries are the most common causes of a limp, some require more urgent attention than others.
If your child had a history of a fever or did not otherwise appear well, your physician may order some lab work to determine if the cause may be related to a more serious problem (such as underlying bone or joint infection).

Because a limp can be due to any process involving the lower extremity (foot, ankle, leg, hip) or spine, I would advise that this complaint in a child be investigated by your primary care provider, especially if your child is too young to verbalize the exact nature of the problem.

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