For kids and adults alike the weekend means hanging out with friends and family, exploring new places and relaxing. For kids it often means spending a lot of time in front of the TV, watching their favorite shows, sports or playing video games. While rest and relaxation is a good thing, spending too much time on the couch watching television can end up negatively impacting your child’s health, according to the Mayo Clinic (Aug. 16, 2013), making them more susceptible to obesity as well as developmental and behavioral issues. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the average American child or adolescent watches between three and four hours of TV per day, which means by the time they graduate from high school, the hours they spent watching TV will actually exceed those spent in school. So when your kids start to protest powering down for the weekend, take a deep breath and keep these wellness perks in mind:
They Will Sleep Well
Getting a good night’s sleep benefits the body in so many ways, such as stress management, blood pressure regulation and helping the immune system do its job better. When kids watch TV on the weekend, they often do so well past their usual bedtime. Too much stimulation from television can hurt your child’s sleeping patterns. Watching television before bed may prevent them from falling asleep quickly and staying asleep, which leads to fatigue later on as well as other issues.
Don’t let a bad night’s sleep turn the daytime into a nightmare. No matter your age, making the last couple of hours before bed a quiet, relaxing time is more conducive to sound sleep. Turn off all electronics, including the TV, and unwind. Another big no-no is having a TV in your child’s bedroom.
They Get More Time with Their Friends
Let’s not forget that time away from the TV means more time with friends, and what kid doesn’t want more time with their pals? Spending time with their friends creates opportunities to learn how to better interact with their peers and develop healthy relationships.
Get your child out of the house or allow them to have friends come over and plan a TV-free activity for the group. There’s power in numbers: teaming up with other parents can make this much easier.
They Can Learn Valuable Life Lessons
Instead of spending the weekend in front of the TV, take your children with you to volunteer in your community. This encourages your children to appreciate what they have, fosters a philanthropic spirit in them and gives you valuable time together. It’s never too early to learn how to give back – a lesson that will serve them well the rest of their lives.
They Will Feel Better
Want to see a bowl of chips disappear in the blink of an eye? Snacking while watching TV can make it easy to eat more than you are aware, which may make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
The weekend is the best time to get out and be active, which is another thing the whole family can benefit from. Organize a game in a local park or head to the bowling alley or skating rink. Just keep moving! Keep meals away from the TV so everyone is aware of what they’re eating as well. Being together is entertaining enough.
They Will Have an Easier Time in School
Binging on TV all weekend can negatively impact a child’s performance on Monday when they head back to school. Children who are fatigued from poor sleep may have trouble concentrating in class as well as during extracurricular activities. This can affect their performance on assignments or exams, which can ultimately have a domino effect.
Better sleep means better grades and before you know it, your child has written the great American novel. Well, maybe not that path exactly, but keeping kids on a regular schedule when it comes to TV watching and sleep -- even on the weekends -- can do wonders. When they head back to school, they’ll be better prepared to handle their work and feel more clear-headed throughout the day.
They Will Find Their Passion
Limiting TV time on the weekends also encourages your kids to be creative and pursue their individual skills and talents. This can be on their own or in an organized class, club or team setting, but devoting this extra time to their own personal outlet will help your children unwind from a stressful week and, as they get older, define their path and future goals. Who knows, you may have a future inventor, astronaut or star athlete on your hands.
They Will Know You’re There for Them
You may all be in the same room, but their best memories of you will be what you did away from the tube. Spending time together as a family on the weekend – playing games, reading out loud, cooking – helps your child understand the importance of family and allows you to develop even stronger relationships with them. Knowing you’re invested in them and their interests helps build confidence and self esteem as well as trust.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children shouldn’t watch TV before the age of two. Once they’re old enough, they should only watch between one and two hours of television per day. Stick to this rule during the week and on the weekends to help your child stay active, social and -- most importantly -- healthy. Have no fear: they will thank you later.