April 04, 2019
A movie night may be just the thing your family needs.
In a time when technology addiction is rampant and "Netflix bingeing" is destroying sleep schedules, it's easy to decry television and its seemingly negative effects on people. But studies have shown that there are amazing benefits to watching TV as a family—when you do it right.
Here are a few reasons why TV might be the fun family bonding experience you've been looking for, both for your spouse and your kids.
Couples that laugh together, stay together
They say that “opposites attract," which means that most of the time spouses will have different interests. I love superhero movies and can tolerate the occasional cheesy rom-com—my wife is the opposite. So when we can find a show that aligns with both our interests and sense of humor, we set time aside to enjoy it together.
Research has shown that sharing media with your partner results in greater feelings of closeness and commitment. Which is why watching TV has become highly interactive for me and my spouse—we're constantly pausing to laugh at a joke, taking time to discuss a new development and rewinding just so we can watch a funny situation play out again. To a bystander that might be extremely annoying, but for us, it works.
Watching TV with your partner is an opportunity to bond, to laugh and to build inside jokes. So rather than independently consuming media in the same room (e.g., silently scrolling through Facebook on your phones), use the experience to build a sense of connectedness with your family.
Answer heavy-hitting questions
Movies create a comfortable environment for kids to ask heavy-hitting questions. They invite discussion and create natural teaching opportunities.
I remember watching Saving Private Ryan for the first time as a teenager with my brother and parents. I asked my Dad why the soldiers would try to storm the beach on D-Day—they must have known that most of them would die, right?
Rather than brushing the question off, my Dad took some time to talk about the reality of war, stripped of the glorified violence that we often see in movies. It led into a larger discussion about American history and on a broader scope, the things that are literally worth dying for.
Whether you're watching a Disney movie, an action movie, a rom-com or otherwise, if you are present and mindful with your children as you watch TV together, you'll hear questions that can turn into valuable teaching moments.
Inspire and educate your children
TV shows can also inspire your kids to learn and explore new subjects. I remember watching the first Lord of the Rings movie as a kid and being inspired to read the whole series, which in turn prompted my love of reading and writing.
Studies have shown that the mere presence of a parent can help kids learn more from the show that they're watching. They're more observant and quick to make connections, rather than being inclined to let their mind wander and accept the show for its entertainment value alone.
Avoid unhealthy habits
Television has been demonized by many parents, and not entirely without reason—there is undoubtedly a wrong way to use TV.
For instance, don't use television in such a way that it isolates you from your family. It's one thing to watch your favorite show when your spouse is away—it's another thing entirely to ignore them or leave them to do the chores while you binge.
The same applies to your children; it's easy to throw on a show for your child so that you can finally get some work done, but excessively doing so can reinforce bad habits and media addiction. It isolates you from your child rather than bringing you together.
A study from the University of Queensland showed that “technology may enhance or hinder couple relationships depending on the couple's ability to manage, monitor and reflect on its use." How can you better manage, monitor and reflect with your partner?
Modern technology is often a double-edged sword, and watching TV is no different: it can be isolating and addictive, or it can help you connect with your family, laugh with your spouse and explore new ideas with your children.
Be deliberate in how you choose to consume media in your home, and you may find that it's just the thing your family needs.