My family has a pretty strict no-technology-at-dinner rule. The TV is off and no cell phones or iPads are allowed at the table. We often have music playing, but otherwise dinnertime is when my eight-year-old daughter, my husband and I talk to each other. It's actually become a bit of a joke that, even when we've spent all day together and know the answer, one of us starts supper by asking someone else, "Soooooooo, how was your day?"
Dinner is a time for us to share what we did, how we felt about it, and what's going on in the next few days. Occasionally, a topic will come up where we might want to Google the answer to a question, but we usually resist until after we've eaten and cleaned up the table. If it was still important enough for us to remember, we can always look it up then, right? (The proper terms for various silverware spoons is one example I had to know the answer to and Googled post-meal.) We almost never interrupt our dinner to answer phone calls, either—unless it is an important one we were expecting. My daughter and I will occasionally have a picnic dinner on the floor in front of the TV if my husband is out for the night, but then it's a special occasion and a real treat.
I was under the impression that most families had enacted similar no-tech dinnertimes, so I was really surprised at the results of a recent survey commissioned by Dixie, the cups and plates company. Of the 1,500 respondents, only 25 percent said their family has a total ban on electronic devices during dinner together. The biggest distractions come from phone calls—um, people do know they don't have to answer them, right? Hello, voice mail! (Or answering machine, if you're old school.) Texts, emails, and messages are the number two culprit, while having a TV in the same room is the third most distracting item. Also surprisingly, 70 percent said adults are the worst offenders when it comes to being distracted at the dinner table. Seventy percent of respondents with school-aged kids, however, would like more device-free quality time. Hey, grown-ups, you're in charge and you can stop this!
To help families get back their dinnertimes together, Dixie is launching the "Dark for Dinner" movement on Sunday, June 14. The movement challenges families to turn off cell phones, televisions, computers and other electronics and "go dark" for one meal together. Being more present when together as a family at the dinnertable has been shown to improve kids' nutrition and prevent high-risk behavior, such as substance use, antisocial behaviors, violence and school problems. In fact, 60 percent of respondents in the Dixie survey said they eat healthier when they eat family meals together, and 69 percent said eating together without distractions helps them bond as a family.
So, will your family go dark on June 14? Maybe it will be the start of a wonderful tech-free time you and your kids can look forward to every evening!
Related: Setting Limits on Technology
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Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who also loved this stat from the Dixie survey: 25 percent of adults with school-aged children in the household admitted to texting their kids to tell them dinner is ready. Hilarious! Follow Ellen on Twitter and Pinterest.
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