So much is made of the importance—or some dispute not—of the family sitting down together at the dinner table.
One thing families sometimes like to do is take their family dinner out of the house, to a restaurant. And some restaurants are making this impulse a much less family-friendly endeavor by putting iPads on the tables.
Newspaper reports of iPads being used in lieu of physical menus and human waitstaff is one trend; some restaurants go a step further and offer the iPads for entertainment purposes, as well. There are a few things to bemoan here including the loss of jobs high school and college students might want and the chance for young people—children and teenagers alike—to practice simple social skills, such as ordering food clearly and politely. These are skills they will ostensibly require as they become more independent. Presumably, not every restaurant will switch to a touchpad ordering system.
Benefits of eating without a screen
According to an article in Time Magazine that synthesizes results of many health benefits of the family meal, the family that dines together is likely to have improved nutrition and teens who are at less risk for depression. Quoting Jennifer Martin-Biggers, doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, who authored the study about families’ dining together: “It is very interesting that something as simple as frequently eating meals together may contribute to so many different types of benefits to all family members.”
This spring, an article in the New York Times chronicled an array of the kinds of conversations some families have or had during dinner. One concrete idea is this one, offered by “Nightline” co-anchor, Cynthia McFadden. Inspired by a dinnertime scene in the 1998 film “Stepmom” that featured a family talking about the day’s high and low points, McFadden has been asking her now-13-year-old son to do the same since he could speak, and sharing hers, too.
You probably want the choice not to plug into a screen during dinner to be yours. The ready-made restaurant escape makes the potential dining experience less appealing. Regardless of what you feel about the frequency or even the necessity of family dinners and regardless of the conversational content, if you make the effort to go out as a family, taking that time around the table to talk and enjoy one another’s company is important. To let technology allow the kids to tune out represents a missed opportunity for all.
How do you get your teens to “lose the screen” during family dinners?
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