Binge-Watching in Children: What Can You Do?
Who hasn’t succumbed to watching an entire season of their favorite series in just a couple of days? Children, young people, and adults alike are tempted to spend hours and hours in front of the screen devouring audiovisual content. However, we aren’t always aware of the negative repercussions of this habit known as binge-watching.
This term, which has become popular in recent years, refers to the action of watching series, videos, or some other audiovisual content continuously. An increasingly common practice is to have binge-watching marathons.
Although this trend affects all age groups, the youngest are especially vulnerable. Because of their cognitive and emotional immaturity, they’re more likely to get addicted to TV.
But in addition to this, the consequences can be very harmful for their developing minds and bodies. So, how can we prevent this from happening? We’ll take a look at it below.
What is binge-watching and why does it occur?
As we have mentioned, binge-watching consists of watching excessive amounts of TV or videos in a short period of time. This practice has been spreading since the arrival and popularization of streaming platforms.
This isn’t down to chance. The platforms implement well-studied mechanisms that come together to create this false need in the viewer:
- Content is released as a block. This allows us to have a whole season (or even a complete series) in a single day, instead of having to wait a whole week for the premiere of a new chapter.
- Continuous transmission. When one ends, the next one starts automatically in a few seconds. We don’t have to decide if we want to continue watching and we don’t have time to do so.
- The possibility of skipping the introduction and credits. These options reinforce our need for immediacy. The human brain isn’t very fond of waiting, and, in this way, we can avoid having to do it.
- Many of the titles aimed at children’s audiences include interactive and gamified elements. These are able to capture and hold children’s attention for longer periods of time.
All of the above has a direct impact on the brain, as it leads us to act on impulse. Watching a series activates the brain reward system, which creates pleasant and pleasurable sensations and motivates us to continue doing the same activity.
In children, whose self-control resources are more limited, this effect is enhanced.
Find out about other options for children here: 6 Tips for Teaching Children to Read at Home
The main consequences of binge-watching in children
Although we think that binge-watching is more typical of adults, children (if they aren’t supervised) also do it, and the big platforms know it well. In fact, according to a Nielsen report, as of 2020, 36% of the most watched programs on streaming were aimed at children and pre-teen audiences.
The repercussions for minors can be serious. Among the main ones are the following.
Anxiety, depression, and post-binge-watching
Some research has linked binge-watching series to increased stress, anxiety, and depression in consumers. It’s still unclear whether it’s the binge-watching that causes this, or, on the contrary, if these marathon sessions are the consequence of poor mental health (a form of escape from reality). Whatever the case, these are highly relevant findings.
On the other hand, consuming audiovisual content in this way makes viewers (especially children) become involved with the characters and plots of their series. By empathizing with them excessively or becoming attached to them, when the program ends they may experience an emptiness or an emotional low.
This sort of depression known as post-binge-watching affects many minors, and it’s related to this type of audiovisual consumption.
Sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle habits
Binge-watching causes children to spend long hours sitting on the sofa in front of screens, thus encouraging a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle. This has significant repercussions on health, as it favors excess weight, low self-esteem, stress, and discouragement, as well as affecting cognitive performance, impulse control, and increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
Neglect of other important areas
Finally, one of the most detrimental factors is that these series binges take time away from other essential activities, for example, play time, socialization, quality family time, or a good rest at night.
Neglecting these areas to devote time to consuming audiovisual content can have a strong impact on proper child development.
Read more here: Excessive Exposure to Screens in Children
How to prevent binge-watching in children
As far as children are concerned, it’s clear that the key to preventing binge-watching is parental supervision. Parents must regulate the amount of time their children spend in front of screens, limiting them to a reasonable amount, and being careful of the type of content they consume, and also the way they do it.
It is important to set some guidelines, such as turning off the television during lunch or dinner, or not altering bedtime because of a series. In the same way, parents should propose alternatives to their children so that they can use their time more productively.
Letting them amuse themselves in front of the TV is an easy option, but it’s also harmful. Doing family activities, organizing activities and outings with other children, or enrolling them in after-school activities will always be healthy alternatives.
In short, it’s a matter of becoming aware of the existence of this problem and its seriousness and taking action to prevent it. The habits we acquire in childhood tend to stay with us into adulthood.
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