Phones at dinner have always been a hot-button issue for families. 56% of people say that it’s at least mildly annoying when others at the table use their phones during a shared meal, and 77% of parents think their families would benefit from at least an hour of break time from screens every day. That’s a lot of people who are less than wild about the idea of bringing technology to the table.
But despite the level of public frustration with screens at dinner, they seem to be everywhere. Fast-casual restaurant chains have even taken to installing tablets at tables, so kids don’t have to bring their own devices to distract them from the wait time for their meals. And it’s not only the kids who tend to sneak a peek — in fact, parents are likely to be the worst offenders when it comes to phones at dinner.
Adding to the challenge, the COVID pandemic has only complicated our relationships with technology at the table. For some families, too much time together at home may have blurred the lines of their usual tech boundaries, especially if they used devices to engage in virtual meals with loved ones during lockdown. Others found that technology quickly became such a pervasive part of daily life that it was futile to try to keep up with the old rules about screen time. And still others ran entirely in the opposite direction, setting up even stricter boundaries around technology than they might have had before the pandemic.
Which leaves us…where? Certainly in need of a fresh look at what we think about phones at dinner, among other things. Maybe, in light of everything that’s happened recently to change our relationships to our screens, it’s time for a technology at the table reboot.
That’s why we’ve created a new, fresh Technology at the Table resource zone on our site. Since screens are here to stay — and increasingly becoming necessary for activities of daily living — we want to guide families to consider their personal comfort level with devices at dinner, and make smart, informed choices about what’s allowed. Here are some of our thoughts on phones (and other screens) at dinner:
Whatever you decide, our new Technology at the Table page has tons of creative ideas to help you balance screen time and family time in the way that feels most positive to you. Try one of them at your next family dinner and see if it changes your point of view!
Now that fall is here, try this easy chicken recipe with apples and cranberries to make the most of seasonal flavors.
Selfies reign supreme in this fun family dinner game that makes great use of phones to build stronger bonds!
If you’re worried about how technology affects real-life communication skills, try these questions to open up an honest conversation with your family.