Sunday June 16, 2019

Children’s Love of Video Games likely to Help Treat Vision Problems, especially Amblyopia

Amblyopia is usually treatable, but if left untreated it can affect a child's reading and fine motor skills, which can negatively impact academic success and self-esteem

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FILE - A girl's eyes are examined March 8, 2012. VOA

Nov 18, 2016: Amblyopia is a Greek word that means “blunt vision.” It’s often called “lazy eye,” and is one of the most common vision problems in children.

Amblyopia is usually treatable, but if left untreated it can affect a child’s reading and fine motor skills, which can negatively impact academic success and self-esteem. Untreated amblyopia can also lead to blindness.

[bctt tweet=”Amblyopia not only has deficits in vision, but it causes deficits in 3-D-depth perception, reading and fine motor skills.” username=””]

With amblyopia, one eye sends stronger electrical signals to the brain than the other one does. If untreated, the pathways the weaker eye uses to send signals can weaken further or fail to develop.

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Doctors commonly treat the condition with a patch over the strong eye to force the weak eye to take over and develop the pathways to the brain. But this treatment may not make the eyes work together. A child may end up using one eye for distance vision and the other for seeing close up.

Researchers at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest in Dallas, Texas, wanted to see if they could improve on the standard treatment given to children with this condition.

“Amblyopia not only has deficits in vision, but it causes deficits in 3-D-depth perception, reading and fine motor skills,” said Dr. Krista Kelly, who led the study.

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These deficits can last through adulthood. Without three-dimensional vision, a person’s ability to drive a car, read textbooks and generally see the world can remain impaired.

Game on iPad

Researchers gave children with amblyopia an iPad and a pair of glasses, and had them play a specially developed video game. The children ranged in age from 4 to 10 years old. The researchers also supplied glasses that changed the way the children saw things. The kids had to work the weaker eye harder in order to play the game, which also forced the children to work both eyes together.

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Children with amblyopia in another group were given only eye patches. After two weeks, Kelly said, both groups were evaluated.

Kelly said the improvement between the two groups was pronounced. “We found that at the two-week visit, children who had the iPad game improved much more than children who patched.”

The children who played the iPad games had improved so much that the researchers gave the iPad and the game to both groups of children. After two more weeks, with both children playing the game, those who had started out in the eye patch group had caught up to the other group.

Kelly now wants to add new games, or even videos, and have the children play the games or watch the videos for more than four weeks. (VOA)

The study appeared in JAMA Opthalmology.

Next Story

Children who Play Violent Video Games More Likely to Handle Gun and Pull Trigger: Study

How many times children pulled the trigger depended on the video game they watched

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FILE - Gamers play Minecraft at the Paris Games Week (PGW), a trade fair for video games in Paris, France. VOA

Children who either played or watched video games that included gun violence were more likely afterward to handle a gun and pull the trigger, a new study finds.

More than 200 children were randomly assigned to play either a non-violent video game or a game with firearm violence. Soon after, more than 60% of kids who played the violent game touched a gun, compared to about 44% of those who played a non-violent game, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.

The lessons from the new findings are that: “gun owners should secure their guns,” and “parents should protect their children from violent media, including video games,” said study coauthor Brad Bushman, a professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“Each day in the United States, nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot with a firearm, often as a result of a child finding one loaded and unsecured,” Bushman and his coauthor Justin Chang, a former graduate student at Ohio State, wrote. “Among firearm-owning households with children, approximately 20% keep at least one firearm loaded and unsecured.”

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Out of the 242 children recruited, 220 eventually found the guns and those kids were included in the study. Pixabay

Bushman and Chang recruited 242 kids, ages 8 to 12, to look at the impact of violent video games. The children were partnered up and then randomly assigned to one of three groups: a version of Minecraft that included violence with guns, a version that included violence with swords and a non-violent version. No matter which game a pair of children was assigned to, one would play the game and the other would watch.

After playing the games for 20 minutes, the children were moved to another room that contained toys for them to play with as well as two disabled guns with trigger counters that had been tucked away in a cabinet. Out of the 242 children recruited, 220 eventually found the guns and those kids were included in the study.

Among the 76 children who played video games that included guns, 61.8% handled the weapon, as compared 56.8% of the 74 who played a game including sword violence and 44.3% of the 70 who played a non-violent game. Children who played violent video games were also more likely to pull the trigger, researchers found. How many times children pulled the trigger depended on the video game they watched.

It was a median of “10.1 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with guns, 3.6 times if they played the version of Minecraft where the monsters could be killed with swords and 3.0 times if they played the version of Minecraft without weapons and monsters,” Bushman said in an email.

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Children who played violent video games were also more likely to pull the trigger, researchers found. Pixabay

“The more important outcome, though, is pulling the trigger of a gun while pointing that gun at oneself or one’s partner [children were tested in pairs],” Bushman said. There, the median was 3.4 times for the game with gun violence, 1.5 times for the game with swords and 0.2 times for non-violent games.

The new study “is the most rigorous design that can be conducted,” said Cassandra Crifasi, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

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While “it’s important to recognize certain types of entertainment can be violent, when it comes to firearms, the solution is to store guns safely so that children can’t gain access,” Crifasi said. “That doesn’t mean children won’t engage in other violent play. But we can cut off guns as a source of potential harm.” Dr. Shari Platt agreed that the best way to protect kids is proper gun storage.

“The study is interesting and I think they are touching on some very real fears parents have around graphically violent video games,” said Platt, chief of pediatric medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine. But in the end, “education and prevention are always the answers.” (VOA)