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Is the Nintendo 3DS safe for kids?

Nintendo 3DS

It’s not long until Nintendo releases its 3D gaming handheld, the 3DS, but is it safe for your kids? The potential health risks of 3D are currently unknown, but would you take a chance on your kid’s eyes?

In the words of Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes (I’ll steer clear from his divisive jibes) it seems like everything this year is three-dimensional. He was talking about movies, but video games are getting in on the action just as much.

Sony’s bringing a raft of 3D games to the PlayStation 3, including Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 3, Uncharted 3 – and PC gamers have enjoyed 3D titles for quite some time.

But now handheld consoles are jumping on the bandwagon, with Nintendo imminently releasing its 3DS in the UK this March. Nintendo hopes that its handheld, which plays 3D games without the need for glasses, will capture the imaginations of children and adults alike – but there are questions as to whether there are health risks attached.

Nintendo’s 3DS health warnings

Although health warnings on gaming products aren’t new, Nintendo issued a statement recommending that children aged six and under shouldn’t play 3D games on the 3DS.

So does this mean that there are actually risks for kids viewing 3D content? Generally, it’s bad for your health to do too much of anything, especially watching TV or playing video games. But health issues surrounding 3D are still a grey area.

Potentially, watching 3D content could harm the development of a child’s eyesight, so there are questions over whether they should be exposed to 3D at all. Richard Pakey, a British eye expert at The Eyewear Centre, mulls over the potential dangers of Nintendo’s 3DS:

‘One possible explanation for the safety advice issued by Nintendo could be something to do with children’s ‘critical eyesight period,’ Pakey told Techradar.

‘This is arguably between the ages of two to six and at this stage children are very much in the developmental process visually, and any persuasions optically could indeed have a negative impact permanently.’

So would you let your child play the Nintendo 3DS when it’s released? The health risks of 3D are still an unknown quantity, so it’s clear that manufacturers are playing it safe with these health warnings, but is it worth risking damage to your kids’ eyes?

Thankfully they’ll be able to play games in 2D on the 3DS, but personally, I don’t think kids under six should be playing handhelds at all. Why not sit with them in the living room and play Mario Kart on the Wii, or LittleBigPlanet on the PS3 – social gaming is a much better lesson for kids.

Nintendo will unveil its plans for the 3DS’s UK launch at a press event in Amsterdam tomorrow.

Chris Foxx says:
18 January 2011

I’m confused firstly how they know the 3DS will harm children’s eyesight as they grow up when it was only invented a year ago, and secondly, the whole world is 3D! Why do 3D effects harm your eyes but not 3D objects, when the image in the brain is created the same way?

Rachel says:
4 February 2011

3 D nintendo DS’s, thats a very scary thought to a parent of a 10 year old boy who loves nintendo games. He has a nintendo DSI, a 2D handheld console and that is addictive enough. I worry about the effect of these machines generally on a young brain and on a youngsters eyesight. Peering at a small screen for hours on end must have a bad effect. To bring out a 3D version of this thing seems to me only to add to it all. The other bad effect is that the child gets sucked into a parallel world which can seem more real than the real one, 3D can only make this problem worse. I have seen the effect of this on my sons behaviour and its not good! We have to severely restrict the amount of time he plays his nintendo just to try to keep him in the real world interacting in a normal way and learning real life skills!
I know the question here is really only concerned with eyesight, I have to say that my son gets headaches quite a bit and I can imagine a 3D version could exacerbate this and maybe even cause nausea, given the amount of time that can get spent poring over these tiny screens.

Jud says:
9 June 2011

Hi Rachel, I’m 26 and I tried out a 3DS in a shop today. I normally play games just for fun to chill out when Im bored or tired. I initially found the 3D effect to be crude and un-managable. I took off my glasses, adjusted the effect, put my glasses back on and re-adjusted it. Within a few minutes I was having an incredibly good time exploring the convincing 3D cartoon world of Pilotwings. It was very enjoyable. I played for about five minutes, completed the level and had to leave to catch my train. As I walked up the street, the world seemed flat, dull, grey and 2D. Yes, things actually seemed to be 2D. Just as we don’t actually wonder through a cartoon world in real-life, nor do we wonder through the consoles exagerated (I had the setting at just under half-way) version of 3D. I wondered how life could possibly be enjoyable in comparison. I was very concerned at my thoughts. I feel that the console, whilst fun, is potentially very dangerous and could be extremley de-sensitizing to ANY mind, not just a young one. Obviously, not all people will be so affected by it, but it definetley needs to be approached with caution. Personally, I wouldn’t give a console to someone younger than 13, to allow for full growth of imagination. I hope my opinions been useful and interesting to people. Cheers. Jud 🙂

jh365 says:
14 October 2011

My 9 year old son purchased his 3DS in March. In April he developed an alarming squint in one of his eyes. He is now wearing glasses to correct the squint, which he will need until he is at least 12 years old. His doctor has said that use of the console MAY have contributed to his squint, but couldn’t say for certain. That was enough for me – he hasn’t played with it since!

carla says:
30 October 2011

Thanks for sharing some information about this matter. I have a four years old son that is discovering this new world of video Games. I am not really in favor that a young child play a handheld, but unfortunately everywhere we go a bunch of kids are playing DS and he gets to be out of the circle. I prefer to teach him to play and interact with people, but for a little one this concept is not very clear.At home he does not play videos games. We are considering buy him one and since the DS 3D is the newest I wanted more info. When it has too much MAY, I am not take the risk. So Thanks for talking about this.

rich k says:
7 March 2012

my grandspon has had a nitendo ds for about a two years after about a year ago he started to have esopagatis problems he was tested for allergies and the doctor came up with a small egg reaction only they kept him off eggs for three months with no change he plays his DS more than he should with it laying on his stomack at the same location as his problem area it almost seems to wierd that might be something going on because of his DS . the doctors said this is something that seems to be happening seeing more in recent years than past, just thought there may be others that seem to have no answers to my five yr old grandson condition

“Spelling Corrector” – The misspellings in the post you have complained of are not critical. We can tell what the writer meant. Using the small key pad on a smart phone and other devices means that it is easy to make spelling and other mistakes and this site is generally tolerant. Not everyone has English as a first language or fluent linguistic skills either.

I applaud people who make the effort to communicate here when it is possibly a struggle and since they are open to severe criticism many years later.

Your reference, in capital letters, to the writer’s condition is completely uncalled for and if you feel that way then there was no point in making your comments.