Is 3D TV Safe for Children?

Popularity and Accessibility of 3D TV

As it grows in popularity, 3D TV is becoming more accessible to young children because their parents and older siblings may enjoy watching that amazing programming format. More families are purchasing 3D TVs for their homes, and if small children do not have exposure to 3D at home, they are likely to see it when they visit family friends or day-care providers.

Many adults may not be aware of any possible dangers associated with the new mode of entertainment, but researchers have spent years examining 3D video to determine its effect on children.

American Academy of Ophthalmology Opinion

According to some pediatric ophthalmologists, there is no evidence indicating that children who watch something in 3D will damage their vision. The ophthalmologists state that watching 3D media is similar to watching anything in real life and add that the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) believes that children are unlikely to harm their eyes by watching 3D programming.

Symptoms Caused by 3D Viewing

Symptoms of potential problems with viewing 3D images can differ but may include eye fatigue, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness and nausea from motion sickness. While the symptoms can be a problem for children, some adults experience the same symptoms as well when watching 3D.

Benefits of Viewing 3D

A child who has problems when watching 3D may have an undiagnosed eye condition causing the issue. Both eyes must have the ability to work together to focus and follow a 3D image and perceive depth. Strabismus, a malaise often called lazy eye, prevents some children from fully developing stereoscopic vision, and the misalignment of their eyes may cause them to feel nauseated, headachy or tired when they watch 3D. Treating strabismus consists of teaching the optic nerves to learn stereopsis, or 3D vision, until it becomes natural to the child. Treatment is usually more effective before children reach the age of seven, and therapy generally resolves the problems and helps the child with reading and learning as well.

Watching 3D TV can be a highly perceptive test of a child’s range of vision. More perceptive than the current eye charts, the test can help identify a child who is one of the 25 percent of children with underlying vision issues. Observing the problems can serve to alert parents to the necessity of taking their child to an optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination.

American Optometric Association Viewpoint

Panelists from the American Optometric Association (AOA) recently posted their views about children watching 3D TV. They concluded that most children could safely watch 3D TV shows because they have established their basic binocular vision before they reach their third birthdays. The AOA says that no current evidence exists to show that the risk of seizures is any greater when watching 3D TV than it is with 2D TV viewing. However, parents of children diagnosed with physical conditions like photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) or who take medications that decrease seizure thresholds should be careful about allowing those children to watch television of any kind. Although the AOA recommends moderation for 3D viewing, that advice is the same as it is for watching 2D TV.

Vision begins developing at birth, and children normally establish basic binocularity between six months and one year of age. By the time children are three years old, they should be able to watch 3D without any difficulties, but there are no reports of harmful effects to children of any age from watching 3D.


Some concerned people not affiliated with the AOA or the AAO disagree with the opinions of those organizations. Those who have reservations about the advisability of allowing young children to watch 3D TV state several reasons for their concerns. Human 3D vision depends on an image sent to the brain from each of the two eyes, and the brain must make sense of the image stereoscopically, which produces depth perception. Skeptics say that children do not fully develop the nerves and muscles responsible for depth perception until after age six, so watching 3D could possibly be harmful for children younger than seven.

In a possible effort to protect themselves from lawsuits, some manufacturers have issued health and safety bulletins listing potential dangers associated with watching 3D images. Included in the lists are possible disorientation, confusion, convulsions and seizures. The bulletins advise people with family histories of strokes or epilepsy to consult their medical professionals before viewing 3D and recommend that elderly people, pregnant women and those under alcoholic influence avoid watching 3D as well.

However, most studies agree that watching 3D TV occasionally should not cause any permanent harm to children of any age.

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