Can Video Games Really Trigger a Seizure?

Can Video Games Really Trigger a Seizure?

iStock_000024441229_LargeIt may sound like an urban myth, but it is possible for video games to cause seizures in children. This condition is known as photosensitive epilepsy, and affects three percent of children who have seizures.

Exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns can trigger seizures, and is more common in children and adolescents than adults. Children who are photosensitive become less prone to these reactions as they age.

What Triggers Photosensitive Seizures in Children?

Seizures in children with photosensitivity are triggered by lights that repeatedly flash in particular patterns and intensities. Because of this, triggers can range from the flickering of a television screen, computer monitor or fence shadows viewed from a moving vehicle.

Some sources, such as strobe lights or emergency lights, may seem obvious as potential triggers. But visual patterns and effects, especially stripes of contrasting colors, in any video medium, can also trigger a seizure.

Will My Child Still Be Able to Use Screens?

There are a number of factors that must combine, such as flash frequency, brightness, contrast with the background lighting, the distance of the viewer and the light’s wavelength. The chance of a reaction is small.

The frequency most likely to cause seizures in children will vary from child to child. However, frequencies below 2 Hertz are generally considered safe for photosensitive kids.

The flashing lights that are most likely to trigger seizures range between a frequency of about 5 to 30 flashes per second.

How Do I Know If My Child Is Photosensitive?

If your child suffers from epilepsy, then you will probably already know if they are photosensitive or not. The electroencephalogram (EEG) is a routine test for children with epilepsy and is also the best way to test for photosensitive seizures in children.