Technology at Mealtime: Do Families Bond Anymore?


Don’t you just hate it when life comes along and makes you reassess your philosophies and ideals? Today was one of those days. It was a good thing though. I’m a big fan of thought-provoking/stir-the-pot discussions. Of the many conversations today, one lingered in my mind and I thought more about it during my commute home.

The conversation was about the balance of social media and family time; which began with one individual, and then carried on separately with two others later on. I mentioned that I just ordered the book Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World for my daughter, and was looking forward to reading it myself.

I’m old fashioned—I will admit that. If you read my blog about my struggles with social media, my “old-fashionedness” will become abundantly clear. Deep down, I am a cave woman in stilettos.

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On the topics of social media and electronic communication devices, I have a rule in my house: “No technology at mealtime.”

I have received the occasional eye-roll from my daughter or stepsons, but I’m pretty inflexible about it. There’s no point in arguing with me. Don’t try to make me believe that a text message on a teen’s phone is anything so earth-shattering that it can’t wait until after we finish eating.

My rule was challenged by a colleague today, “When you were growing up, if the phone rang at meal time, would anyone answer it?”

I was pretty sure I remembered that we did.

“You have a point there.” I replied. (Being careful not to say, “you’re right,” because then there’d be no dealing with this guy if he was ever led to believe that he was actually right about something.)

The discussion also surrounded children playing with or watching something on a handheld device while they eat. I can sympathize with the bustling family who is just trying to get through a meal with their small children without resorting to the use of threats or duct tape (both of which are apparently frowned up by society these days). <Insert winky-face please, so that I don’t find social services at my door. It’s a joke folks. Geesh.>

I have fond memories of sitting in a restaurant playing hangman or x’s and o’s with my sister or parents. Yes, I remember that sometimes I was “bored” when the food took too long, but I just distracted myself by playing with sugar packets, or excusing myself to the washroom and counting the wall tiles. Yes, it was my thing. My parents used to time how long it would take before I’d go to check out the facilities with my trusty calculator in hand. I guess it was my internal math-geek itching to get out.

Anyhoo, I understand the challenges that families have in this day and age, but let’s fast-forward that young, bustling family five years—where all the kids are at an age that they can feed themselves and carry on a conversation.

What then?

Will it be a table of genetically related zombies? Or will the distraction tactics now be replaced by actual… wait for it… family bonding time?

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In addition to the fact that distracted eating (AKA: watching TV or reading) has been linked to overeating, I honestly don’t think I’m wrong with my “no technology at mealtime” rule. I really don’t. I did however, think back to my childhood and tried to remember our mealtimes.

What did happen when the phone rang? I had to think really hard.

And then it came to me.

I remember what happened at our house when the phone rang while we were eating.

Ring

“Would someone get that please?” my mother would say.

Ring, ring

“Somebody get the phone please”

Ring, ring

“Veronica, you’re closest, go answer the phone.”

Ring, ring

“Veronica!”

“Awww mom! Why can’t Jan get the phone?”

Ring, ring

“Veronica!”

“Ugh. Fine!”

Ring, ri…

“Hello? Helloooo? Sigh… Mom, they hung up!”

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