Two Unexpected Ways Pokemon GO Can Affect Eye Health

By Staff Reporter, Parent Herald August 09, 05:39 pm

Pokemon GO is undoubtedly a top tech craze of the summer, but some doctors are concerned that the game may be contributing to digital eye strain among children and adolescents.

Parents who limit screen time during the school year may see summer as time to let kids indulge in tech activities unfettered. While encouraging physical activity through playing the game is certainly a win, parents should be mindful of the risks associated with digital eye strain and ensure proper UV protection for eyes as well as skin before kids set out on their next adventure to "catch 'em all."  

The potential pitfall of marathon Pokemon GO sessions is they contribute to increased time spent staring at screens, which can have long-term adverse effects on eye and vision health. Cell phone screens emit blue light radiation called High Energy Visible Blue Light, which can throw off sleep patterns in the short term and damage the photoreceptors in the eyes over time.

Further, premature digital eye strain brought on by too much screen-time and exposure to blue light radiation can lead to symptoms including fatigue or disrupted sleep patterns, blurry or unfocused vision, dry/irritated eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, difficulty reading small print, and nearsightedness as children get older.

With users spending an average of 26 minutes a day using the app, Dr. Mark Jacquot, Clinical Director, LensCrafters, explains, "people, and parents of young children and adolescents in particular, should be aware of their overall screen time. In order to continue enjoying the game while minimizing the impact of mobile phones on vision, be aware of how much time you or your children are spending in front of screens each day and take regular breaks using the 20-20-20 rule by taking a break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Perhaps check out each PokeStop or Pokemon GO gym for a few minutes to give your eyes a break and take in some new scenery before continuing on in pursuit of a Dragonite."

Additional time spent outdoors playing Pokemon GO also means more opportunity for UV exposure, which is harmful for eyes just as it is for skin.

According to Jacquot, "while the sun can harm eyes of any age, children are more vulnerable to retinal damage from UV rays because their eyes are clearer and they tend to spend more time outdoors than adults. In fact, up to 80 percent of a person's lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 20, so it's important to start protecting children's eyes early to prevent long-term damage. Many UV-related eye problems don't develop instantly after exposure, but can lead to problems further down the road." As such, Dr. Jacquot recommends everyone wear protective sunglasses with UV400 protection or higher. 

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