How families can turn binge watching into family time
Braaten works with Xi Safety, a Canadian consulting firm that specializes in helping industrial companies adhere to the best safety practices. He says many industrial workers use the same kind of light emitting for TVs for another use: Staying awake after a long shift.
"Your eyeball is much more than a piece of your body, it also triggers your brain. In natural daylight, you automatically feel less fatigued. It suppresses your melatonin production. At night, there's less blue light because the sun is going down. That's a signal to your brain that it's time to go to bed," Braaten explained. "So if you're exposing your eyes to this blue light at the wrong time of the day, you’re telling your brain that it’s daytime."
Studies published through the Harvard School of Medicine's health newsletter in 2012 say light at night can not only mess with life's rhythms, it could have more serious health implications. Some studies, which Harvard's medical school cited as "very preliminary," say that melatonin suppression may contribute to cancer.
"I just think it's ludicrous that families all over North America give the kid a tablet or watch TV before bed and then little Johnny's got sleep problems, and who knows what kinds of behavioral problems that translates into at school?" Braaten said.
Limits for adults and children
Braaten and Simonsen say the best things families can do to protect themselves and their kids from the dark side of binge watching is the simplest: Turn off the TV.
As a result, they say, everyone will sleep better and connections can stay strong.
"It's all about parents being honest with themselves," Simonsen said. "The question is, where is the parent putting that focus? They should have some sort of self-inventory on that."
In the meantime, Sullivan has taken the binge connecting approach with her other children. She and her daughter, she said, are both fully invested in “Downton Abbey.”
“What I have learned from these experiences is that sharing good TV brings a common bond that leads to relevant and intelligent discussion,” Sullivan said. “I feel that has not only enhanced my relationships with both my children, but it has opened up debates about topics that may never have otherwise been touched upon.”
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