Teens regularly binge-watch shows on YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming services. While seventy-three percent of Netflix viewers report feeling happy while they’re binge-watching, neuroscience research indicates that those marathon sessions could pose risks to a teen’s mental and physical health.
A growing body of research raises concerns about what binge-watching does to the brain.
Some research studies suggest that watching back-to-back episodes on streaming services can contribute to depression and anxiety and impair language and memory skills. At first, teens feel pleasure because their brains produce more dopamine while they are binge-watching. However, this pleasure is followed by feeling let down when the last episode is done. Meanwhile, the passive activity of sitting while watching can decrease oxygen levels and make it harder for the brain to focus.
While it might be ideal to believe that we can convince our teens and ourselves to never binge-watch a show again, that may not be realistic. Before you cancel your streaming subscriptions and forbid your teens from binge-watching, find out how to make binge-watching healthier.
Binge Watching and Mental Health:
Binge-watching is probably here to stay. Sixty-one percent of Netflix viewers also say that they regularly watch up to 6 episodes of a show in one sitting.
Adopting these habits can make it easier on your brain:
- Limit teen consumption. Teens will be less likely to binge-watch if you set a limit to how many hours they can watch a streaming service or how many episodes. While your teens may not appreciate this boundary, it is part of your job as a parent to set limits.
- Teach teens to be selective. Setting limits for your teens is easier if teach them to be selective about what they watch. Help your teens start to recognize that their time is valuable. You teach teens their time is valuable, by spending time with them so they feel valued. Help your teens pick programs that are meaningful and enriching. Ask your teen if a series is really worth the time it takes to finish it.
- Join others. Binge-watching can be isolating. Help your teen learn to invite family and friends to watch with them and interact with them during a binge session. Make it a watching party that can be enjoyed by your teen and their friends. A watch party will limit the amount of time your teen can binge-watch.
- Talk about it. The best part of watch parties is it helps make binge-watching more interactive and less passive by discussing what is watched. Teens sharing comments and questions with their family or friends make binge-watching less isolating.
- Help your teen manage stress. Binge-watching is often used as a strategy to manage stress. That can be okay occasionally, but your teen needs to have other strategies too. Teens can learn relaxation practices or may need to consider counseling if they are struggling with stress.
Binge Watching and Physical Health
The body and mind are closely connected. Your teens will need guidance in making choices that will protect their overall wellbeing from too much sedentary binge-watching.
Try these tips:
- Snack smart. If your teens eat while watching TV, make sure there are light and nutritious snacks available for them. Smart choices include plain popcorn, fruit, hummus, and cut vegetables.
- Work out. Teens can strengthen their bodies and burn calories with regular exercise. Teens should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Moderate exercise can be walking through the neighborhood or engaging in other forms of exercise with their friends.
- Take breaks. If teens are binge-watching, they still need to get up on their feet at least once an hour. They can do some yoga or stretching or take the dog for a walk in between episodes.