Will my 7-year-old outgrow her fear of 3D movies like Puss in Boots?

Q: My seven-year-old daughter loves movies, and there are many 3D movies geared toward kids this holiday season—Arthur Christmas, Happy Feet 2, Hugo, Puss in Boots, and The Muppets. But when my friend took her to see Puss in Boots, which opens with snow falling, the 3-D snow really freaked my daughter out, and she refused to put the glasses back on the remainder of the film. Is this something she will grow out of? What should I do?

-Multidimensional in Atlanta, GA

A: Dear Multidimensional,

These movies can be exciting and fun—for some viewers. The 3D effect that is so engaging demands that our eyes and brains combine two artificially created 2D images into a single 3D image. This is much harder for the brain to do than it is to visually process objects that actually have three dimensions, like snow falling in real life. This processing uses parts of the brain that do not fully develop until the mid-20s (although even adults can develop eyestrain, headaches, and even nausea from watching 3D movies).

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Because her brain is not fully mature, doing this work may be really uncomfortable for your daughter. It may also feel overwhelming to be “surrounded” by the movie, especially when it gets loud or scary. That’s part of what a lot of people like about 3D, but it isn’t enjoyable for everyone.

The fact that she took off the glasses and refused to put them back on actually sounds like a good thing: She’s taking care of herself. She’s determining for herself what feels good, and adjusting what she can to make herself comfortable. Those are good skills for a seven year old—or anyone—to have.

So even though your daughter may grow out of any physical discomfort with 3D, follow her lead. It’s not important for her to feel comfortable with or even like 3D. If you want to bring her to a movie, take a look at some reviews to make sure the content is right for her, and then watch it in 2D (which you can usually do in the same cineplex where it’s showing in 3D). After all, if she’s not enjoying the movie, her time—and yours—is definitely better spent elsewhere.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,

The Mediatrician®