Here’s mud in your eye: medical professionals disagree about vision problems from Nintendo 3DS

Remember when your mother used to tell you to put the video games away because they were bad for your eyes? Turns out that’s a point up for debate, as two industry associations representing ocular health professionals are currently weighing the pros and cons of the Nintendo 3DS.

The 3DS is a handheld video game system that will be released in on March 27th, and will replace Nintendo’s DS handhelds. Its 3D capabilities come with a manufacturer’s warning, however, saying that “there is a possibility that 3-D images which send different images to the left and right eye could affect the development of vision in small children.”

However, the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are not in agreement for what this means. For the Optometrists, the 3D technology may help to diagnose underlying vision problems; the Ophthalmologists, however, aren’t sure of such utility. The Globe and Mail summarizes what the two sides had to say:

“The 3DS could be a godsend for identifying kids under 6 who need vision therapy,” said Michael Duenas, associate director for health sciences and policy for the American Optometric Association.

If your kid doesn’t see the 3-D effect on the 3DS, that’s a sign that he or she may have a vision disorder such as amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” or subtler problems that can cause problems with reading, Duenas said. Kids who experience dizziness or discomfort should also be checked, he said.

David Hunter, a pediatric ophthalmologist affiliated with the Children’s Hospital in Boston and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said the idea that off-the-shelf 3-D games or movies could help screen for vision problems such as amblyopia is “a little perplexing.”

Kids with amblyopia don’t have much depth perception in real life, he said, so if they don’t see depth in a 3-D screen, they might not say anything because that wouldn’t be much different from what they see around them.

It’s not impossible that it could help, but it’s “all sort of exploration and speculation,” said Hunter, who has started a company that’s developing a device for childhood screening of vision disorders.

There’s only one way to solve this dispute: give Duenas and Hunter each a knife and let them fight gladiator-style fort the future health and safety of our children. It’s a little something I like to call “democracy.”

The article quotes Jim Sheedy, director of Oregon’s Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, who correctly points out that while vision problems from video games are yet to be confirmed, there is one health problem definitely associated with video games: obesity.

So, if you want to improve your kids’ eyes without packing on the pounds, my advice is feed them carrots. Kill two birds with one stone.