Sick Kids Need Sleep, Not Video Games

There are many joys and pains that come with raising children. The daily life of getting them up, out to school, back home, and sleep, is the standard routine for any family. However, sometimes life will get in the way and your child becomes sick. They have to stay home and become restless. It may be tempting to let them play video games, but there are real reasons why you need to keep the child in bed. This article will look at the following: quality of sleep, resting, and mental strain.

Video games distract from sleeping

It’s no secret that video games have negative effects on the sleep quality. This issue affects kids as well as adults. According to Mattress Advisor’s research, more screen time is associated with fewer hours of sleep and poorer sleep quality. The LED lights on the child’s handheld device or TV can trigger activity in the brain, making it harder for the mind to calm down and begin the sleep process. Even if the child falls asleep, it might be a light sleep or short nap at best. It won’t be the several hour sleep needed to fight off an illness. The body needs to be still and not distracted to heal itself quickly. As such, it’s important to remind the child that video games can wait for another day.

Playing video games may impede rest

The next reason is similar to the first. Resting is nearly as important as sleep. When playing video games you are sitting up and focused on the game in front of you. Children may start moving around as they get more immersed in the game. Swinging the controller around, mashing buttons, and/or getting upset because of a Game Over creates a distraction for the body. Laying in bed nice and still is the best remedy to illness, but when your child needs something to entertain themselves, try one of these restful alternatives:

  • Create a pillow fort full of blankets and books
  • Give them a bubble bath
  • Read to them or listen to an audiobook
  • Get out the Play-Doh or Legos
  • Paint each other’s faces
  • Fill out a coloring book

If all else fails, turning on the TV for a little bit of calming entertainment won’t do too much harm and can actually help your child wind down.

Mental Strain

This last point goes hand-in-hand with the previous two points. Video games can be very mentally intense. When you’re a child trying to recover from an illness, trying to solve a tough puzzle or make a time limit can be a major distraction. The brain will much more concerned with what is going on in front of you and not the illness plaguing the body. The mental strain can actually cause the illness to get worse, depending on how immersed the child becomes and how long they are playing. Mental relaxation is important to a swift recovery. Stress only impedes it. Explaining this to your child and maintaining a consistent policy can help overcome resistance.

Being ill is unpleasant, but proper rest and sleep accelerates recovery. But of course, unless your child is very sick they won’t be able to sleep all day — they’ll want something to do. Offer quiet entertainment like reading, coloring, or even watching limited TV can help deter boredom. As a parent, reassure your child that they can play the games again when they’re feeling better — this can serve as motivation for them to get better as soon as possible.

What Can You do to Encourage Abstinence?

American media saturates youth culture with sexual images, sounds and feelings, promoting early sexualization of our children and encouraging them to make bad choices about sex.  Is there really anything parents can do to help their children?  Yes! Research shows that having household standards of rules and expectations for your kid’s behavior and monitoring what your kids do, such as the TV shows they watch, the music they buy and what they access on the Internet can reduce by 75% the chance that your child will be involved with high-risk activities as a teen.

Here are some specific suggestions to consider to help reduce sexualization of your children/teens:

  1. Regulate and monitor your children’s exposure to entertainment media (including TV, movies, magazines and internet). Research indicates that watching and listening to sexual material encourages kids to become sexually active earlier.  Some TV sitcoms and movies may be viewed as cute and innocent but in reality teach and model sexual promiscuity (even at young ages) in a way that can change the thinking, emotions and even behavior of your children. Consider not allowing children to have a TV in their room (as this can make it harder to monitor, encourages more screen time and can encourage a child to isolate from the family). Having an internet filter, being your child’s “Friend” on Facebook, and only allowing children to surf the internet when they are supervised can also help protect them.
  2. Research shows that teens who know that their parents expect them to be sexually abstinent are more likely to make this choice, especially if parents have a warm, supportive and loving relationship with them. Communicate your expectations as your children grow older, such as if your family expectation is that they should save sex for marriage. When your child is 11-12 years old, consider taking them on a special overnight trip (ideally moms with daughters and dads with sons) to focus on imparting your values on these issues and helping to equip your child to make wise decisions as a teen in a sex-saturated culture (one popular resource with a sexual purity emphasis that some families use for this type of overnight trip is called Passport2Purity Getaway Kit).  
  3. Start early with teaching your children, especially your daughters, to dress modestly. This can be an opportunity to teach them how valuable they are and to respect themselves.  For your daughters, consider discouraging early use of make-up and jewelry that can make a child appear older and more mature.
  4. Help your child make good connections. Hang out with other families who share your values and who have children the approximate age of your children.  Research also suggests that being involved with a healthy religious organization may also help your child to make good choices about sex as a teen.
  5. Start talking to your children early about these issues. First messages are the most powerful; why wait until your child hears the wrong thing and then try to correct the misunderstanding?  As a parent, establish yourself as the trusted “expert” to your child on these matters as they grow.  If you stand silent on sex while the rest of the world is abuzz about it, kids come to the conclusion that you cannot help them in this key area. There is so much you can do just in small conversations along the way that help lay a good foundation for when your children are teens, so take advantage of teachable moments.   For example, when kids are 3-5 years old, one way to start the dialogue is to talk about how babies are born as boys or girls and how their basic anatomy differs (perhaps you can bring this up when someone you know delivers a baby).  Use correct anatomical terms and avoid presenting sexuality as something dirty.  The term “privates” can be a respectful word to use, but define male/female anatomy terms for children when they can grasp this.
  6. Keep the conversation going about sexuality as your child grows. Your child wants you to be the one who teaches them about sex, even if they’d never tell you they want that!  Most preteens/teens actually wish their parents would talk to them more about sex.  Most teens want you to be the one who initiates these conversations and for you to keep the dialogue going.  This will be easier if you start early!
  7. Help protect your children from pornography. Many children are stumbling upon or being led to pornography at young ages.  The average age of first internet exposure to porn is 11 years old. 70% of children have inadvertently viewed online pornography.
  8. Be a good example. If you are married, maintain a healthy marriage and loving relationship with your spouse.  If you are not married, make wise choices about dating, etc because your actions are likely to have a big influence on your children’s future choices.
  9. Use authoritative discipline. See  Give your children boundaries for curfew, dating, etc based on their maturity level.