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Children Warned Off 3D Viewing

Optometry Australia has warned that 3D movies may have dangerous effects on the vision of young children and people with impaired vision.

Luke Arundel, Optometry Australia’s senior resident optometrist, said glasses required to screen movies in 3D can cause fatigue or irritation. 3D glasses work by filtering images so the left eye sees one image and the right eye sees a slightly different one. The brain then fuses them together to perceive a 3D image. However for this to happen, the viewer’s eyes must work well together. Where vision is underdeveloped or damaged, 3D glasses may cause fatigue or irritation.

“Children and people with poor 3D or binocular vision may notice problems from extended periods of 3D viewing,” said Mr. Arundel.

“For young children the glasses require the brain to work hard to process the images. During a long movie, this can create tiredness and discomfort. This is due to the negative effects or strain of the vergance-accommodation conflict, where the brain tries to process two different visual images into one image.”

“While we understand the pressure on parents to allow their children to participate in this type of activity, Optometry Australia is recommending caution in allowing children under the age of six access to 3D content, and that access for those up to the age of 13 should be moderate, with parents vigilant concerning any resulting symptoms.”

Mr. Arundel said that viewing 3D movies or television programs shouldn’t be treated any differently to 2D versions.

“With 3D movies sitting too close to the screen can increase the strain on the visual system in trying to fuse these images together.”

“Anyone who experiences vision conditions such as blur, nausea, tiredness or headaches while watching a movie or playing computer games in 3D or 2D should have their eyes examined by an eye care professional. Optometrists are able to measure the amount of 3D vision you have, also known as stereopsis, and in some circumstances stereopsis can be improved with vision correction or vision therapy.”

Research from the French agency ANSES released in November 2014 recommended restricting access to 3D content for children under six and follows similar warnings from games manufacturer Nintendo in 2010 when it released its 3D games console. Italy has been the first country to restrict the use of 3D glasses by young children following a similar warning from its health agency last year. At this time the American Optometric Association has said it has no reports of eye damage as a result of viewing 3D content and Mr. Arundel said further research was needed as the technology was still fairly new.

Optometry Australia urged parents to be aware of the impact of “screen time” on their children’s eyes – such as through watching TV, playing on smartphones, tablets and computers and recommends parents ensure kids take regular breaks.

“Many studies are now also investigating links between the amount of time kids spend indoors and focussing on near-based activities with the development of myopia or short-sightedness,” said Mr. Arundel.