There was a recent cartoon in The Spectator that really hit home. A couple is out to dinner at a restaurant. The wife says to her husband, sadly, “What’s wrong? You’ve hardly touched your phone.”
Though you may chuckle at the cynical observation, most of you will also recognize the sentiment all too well. That’s because it seems to perfectly sum up the sad state of dinnertime in the 21st century.
But it doesn’t have to.
Families both large and small have been gathering around the dinner table for centuries – But sometime in the latter part of the 20th century, as life became busier and work hours stretched longer, the family dinner started to become a rarity. Today, when you add in the distraction of always-on, always-connected mobile technology, even when we do sit down to eat together; we’re often off in our own digital worlds, at the same table but miles away.
So what can you do to reclaim dinnertime from this conversation-sapping technology? The answer is surprisingly simple: ban it from the dinner table. Set smartphones to vibrate and put them in a designated box. That goes for everyone – Mom and Dad, too. And leave them there until everyone is excused from dinner.
Apparently this idea is catching on, too. Recently, the owner of several Georgia Chick-fil-A restaurants developed a “cell phone coop” that sits at every table. It’s a simple cardboard box decorated with a chicken wire pattern into which people can put their mobile devices. If they remain in the “coop” for the entire meal, the family receives a free ice cream dessert.
The point of all this should be obvious. Without technology to distract us, we actually speak with one another during dinner. Studies show that this can provide numerous benefits for children, including higher self-esteem and better communication with their parents. This is because, as you might suspect, talking at dinner promotes closeness, trust and comfort.
So what do you think? Are you willing to give it a try? It won’t be easy at first, but after a while, you’ll find that you actually look forward to an hour a night of good food and family conversation.
To read more about keeping distractions away from the dinner table, check out the At the Table Guide.