It’s normal for parents to be concerned about the eye health of their children when new gaming technology emerges. However, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 3D movies, television and gaming systems (such as the Nintendo 3DS) are not necessarily harmful. In fact, optometrists believe that this technology might actually help uncover eye health problems that might have very well been left undetected.

When it comes to eye health, 20/20 vision is not enough. Eye muscles must have the necessary strength and coordination to help correctly align both eyes. The brain also needs to match the necessary focusing power with where the eyes happened to be aimed. Often, subtle problems with these vision skills can lead not only to rapid eye fatigue and loss of 3D viewing, but also loss of place when reading or copying, reduced reading comprehension, poor grades and increased frustration at school. Difficulties with viewing 3D television, movies and games are often telltale signs of underlying eye illness and shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, 3D games can help diagnose these difficulties, thus bringing them to the attention of parents and eye professionals.

Even so, Nintendo has acted proactively by issuing warnings on their newest hand-held gaming system, the Nintendo 3DS. They advise against children six years old and under from playing games in 3D mode while studies on the effects of 3D viewing on children remain to be done. Since vision continually develops from birth, it is crucial to uncover the type of vision disorders that may interfere with 3D viewing at an early age. And Nintendo is choosing to err on the side of caution in this case. Although, children younger than 6 can use the 3DS in 3D mode if their visual system is developing normally and they have no problems with their eye health.

Both the AOA and the American Public Health Association (APHA) encourage regular eye exams for children at varying ages. While playing 3D games, if children experience the “3Ds of 3D viewing” — discomfort, dizziness, or lack of depth — it is crucial to have a comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry.