Cell Phones At The Dining Table

If you find, with increasing exasperation, members of your family scrolling through their phone with one hand and shovelling food with the other at the dining table, you are not alone. People are reaching a point where the use of smartphones approaches the compulsive. The explosion of technology and the social media is changing traditional notions of meals and is transforming human interaction. The family meal and the social interaction that comes with it could now be a thing of the past thanks, to new technologies.

A new study by Rochester Institute of Technology is one of the first to analyse how new-media technology, including the Internet and smartphones, are changing the eating habits of the youth and their relationship to food as well. It seems that they are now making their meals a part of their multitasking routine. Nor surprisingly, then, more and more meals are being had away from the dining table or then at the table without any traditional interaction with the family. Explain the researchers, “Eating is now just one of several activities being multitasked at once, all of which generally involve computers and smartphones, including surfing the Web, communicating with friends via Facebook and doing homework. This does not mean that students are any less social; in fact, they are often interacting with more people than if they were sitting in a dining room, but the method of that socialisation is now directly connected to new media.”

It’s not just the teenagers. Another research in the USA has found that over half of adults own smartphones. One-third of them use their phones during dinner, that most fundamental of social encounters. After a long day, a nice meal with the family – considered to be the perfect bonding time – is no longer so. This is what you could do to rectify the situation at your dinner table:

Maintain boundaries. Cell phones at the dinner table disrupt the experience of face-to-face, real time contact between those we dine with, whether or not the value of this connection is fully understood or acknowledged.

Set a no-tech-at-dinner-table rule. Explain to your children that a meal is not only about eating; it’s a family time and that the presence of a cell phone tells those you are with that they are less important than an incoming call or text, and that you are unwilling (or unable) to give them your full attention.

Put your own phone away so that you set an example.

Inculcate the habit in your family members to deliberately step away from the constant updates and incoming information streaming at least for at least 30 minutes a day. It may be challenging but exercising these rules is key to maintaining our authentic, genuine relationships.

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