A new analysis suggests many of us spend more time streaming than spending quality time together — but you can make binge-watching a family affair.
So much for Netflix and children.
We may spend twice as much time binging-watching Netflix as we do bonding with family, according to a new analysis from the Streaming Observer.
The independent news site, which covers streaming video and entertainment, was curious about how the time we spend streaming Netflix every day compared to other activities, such as spending time with family, socializing with friends and exercising. Netflix reports that its 117.58 million subscribers watch 140 million hours of content on average per day, so Streaming Observer editor-in-chief Chris Brantner divided the number of hours by the number of subscribers to find that the average user spends 1 hour and 11 minutes (or 71 minutes) each day watching Netflix.
And considering these two recent studies have suggested families only spend anywhere from 34 minutes to 37 minutes of quality, undistracted time (when they feel they “actually bond together and catch up without gadgets,” per the first report), Brantner averaged the time that families hang out together to 35.5 minutes per day.
“That means the typical subscriber spends about half as much quality time with their family as they do with Netflix,” he wrote. And he also drew upon the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey to find we spend almost the same amount of time each day watching Netflix as we do exercising (17.4 minutes), reading (16.8 minutes) and socializing with friends (39 minutes) combined. And considering the largest streaming site is estimated to be spending $12 billion to $13 billion on content this year, and has been signing partnerships with the Obamas and Shonda Rhimes, it’s hard to resist tuning in.
“Gone are the days of watching a show at a certain time and waiting a week for the next episode,” he told Moneyish. “Netflix drops an entire season at a time and autoplays episodes after one finishes. It’s a recipe for time-sucking addiction.”
Now, there’s some caveats to this report. For one thing, the 117.58 million subscribers that Netflix has on the books doesn’t account for multiple people sharing one account and logging on with someone else’s password. And how many people are watching those 140 million hours of Netflix content at once — is there one person in a sample room, or 10? And it could be that childless people log in far more hours of Netflix than do those with kids. Plus, it leaves out Hulu, Amazon Prime and other services. “Netflix is by far the giant of the streaming industry, with the most subscribers by far,” Brantner explained. “Netflix is so popular that it’s become one of those names that is synonymous with the product. Like people saying they want a Coke when they may mean another type of soft drink. People even use ‘Netflix’ as a verb.”
But a recent report from CivicScience that compared Netflix users from October 2015 to April 2017 did find that subscribers are skewing older and having kids. Before October 2015, 34% of Netflix users were between 18 and 24, but after April 2017 they made up just 11% of users — while those ages 35 to 44 spiked to almost one in four (24%) users after April 2017, up from 15% in 2015. And subscribers identifying as parents jumped 16% to about half (48%) of users.
And the analysis does launch a timely discussion about how we’re spending our time, and how often we’re glued to our screens. And people of all ages are spending more time on their screens. While kids ages eight and younger spend two hours and 19 minutes a day with screen media on average, according to Common Sense Media, parents are also logging more than nine hours a day on their phones, tablets and computers for work and play.
But some parents noted that watching Netflix (or Hulu, Amazon Prime and the growing list of streaming service sand apps) and hanging out with friends and family doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Lance Somerfeld, father of two and founder of the City Dads Group, told Moneyish that Netflix has actually enhanced family time in his home. “We can all gather on the couch with a fun family flick like ‘Coco,’ ‘Boss Baby’ or ‘Moana,’” he said. “Then, we blast the music from those films on our Amazon Alexa and a dance party ensues.
“Nothing comes easy when you combine parenting and screen time, so we’re still in the throes of figuring things out,” he added. “So if (screens) are not used as family time, then the children usually only have an hour per day.”
Jill Murphy, the editor-in-chief at Common Sense Media, assured Moneyish that it’s fine if curling up on the couch after dinner is your family’s way of connecting. But it should be done in moderation. After all, you’re laughing, crying and experiencing emotions and empathy together through what’s happening on screen.
“Everything in moderation is really what we’re going for,” she said. “If my kids are vegging on the couch for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, that’s fine — but so do I, for that matter. But if we’re doing it every day for the whole week, that’s not balanced. And if we’re just staring at the TV or at our phones and not talking to each other or engaging with each other, then we’re not communicating.”
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics relaxed its screentime guidelines a couple of years ago in recognition that co-viewing programs and discussing them with kids afterward can be an important educational opportunity.
“Co-viewing and co-engaging when you’re on media or watching Netflix is really important, and it’s another way to bond with your child,” pediatrician and AAP spokesperson Dr. Corinn Cross told Moneyish. For instance, she has gotten into streaming “Bewitched” reruns with her three children ages six, eight and nine. “We laugh together and have something to chit-chat about. Or my 8-year-old and I watched ‘Hidden Figures,’ and it was a jumping off point to talk about race relationships and male-female relationships.
“We’re getting away from how many hours everyone spends on screens, and thinking about it more as an opportunity cost: if we’re spending time on screens, then what are we missing out on?” she added — such as sacrificing time to go outside and exercise, or get a good night’s sleep, or spend unplugged quality time with loved ones.
And talking to your kids about what show you’re losing yourself in and why — or asking them about the shows and movies they’re obsessed with — is an easy way to connect. “Kids love to talk about media. Ask them about their favorite, and you can’t get out of that conversation,” laughed Murphy. “And that’s a great way to get kids to open up, practice storytelling and articulating, and build their language skills.”
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