Dear tech-savvy parents with cell phones,
It is a universal stereotype that all teens with smart phones or cellular devices are obsessed over them and do nothing but stay in their rooms all day texting, playing games, or using social media. I would know, I’m 21, I used to be like that (okay, sometimes still like that). My parents are constantly telling me and my siblings to put down our phones and do something. But at least we all agree: it is a BIG NO-NO to bring phones to the dinner table. Growing up, dinnertime was sacred; that was when we all talked to each other after long work or school days.
I’m a foodie, so I love going to try new restaurants and going out to eat with friends. Many, many, MANY times while I am dining out and waiting for food, I will look around and see something that disturbs me greatly: an adult/parent dining with their family while ON THEIR PHONES.
Let me share with you this appalling experience. About two weeks ago, when I was dining at TGIF, I noticed that to the table to my left sat 3 people: a man, woman, and small boy no older than 5 years. The child sat on the woman’s side, and the man sat opposite. The woman entertained and fed the child, while the man sat and scrolled on his phone for more than half of the meal. He would have it flat on the table, gaze downward, fingers scrolling up and up, while the woman and child dined, and the woman tried to make talk with him. After some time, he put the phone away to eat dessert with the other two, but then as they waited for the check, he was back on his phone again!
Same instance, different table. A group of 3 women sat in a booth. One looked like a teenager, and the other two looked in their upper twenties. From the moment they got there and were seated, all three were on their cell phones. I glanced occasionally to see when they’d put their devices down, and not for a good 15 minutes, while waiting for their food, did two of them set the phones aside. The third woman pulled out headphones and carried on a phone call at the table.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. I was at a schnazzy burger joint, and looking around, I saw yet another family sitting far away, with what looked like the father on his phone nearly the ENTIRE time! The kids were climbing on top of him, but his eyes stayed on his phone the entire time he was trying to juggle his little boy. The mother (I assume) was the one feeding them and talking to them. THE HORROR.
Pray tell me, what is so important on your phone, that when you’re dining out (which should be a special occasion, right?) you HAVE to be on your phone? Could it wait? Can you live without it for just 2 hours?
Now, I’m not limiting this discussion to the dinner table. This is a growing problem where phones are becoming a dangerous distraction not just to teens, but older generations as well. More and more adults with kids are investing in smartphones. Younger generations (like people my age) have grown up with smartphones and now are old enough to get married and have kids. We live in a highly advanced technological environment, and already I see it capable of breaking one of the oldest bonds humanity has managed to forge from it’s creation: the bond between parent and child.
A study was done in March of 2014 by Dr. Jennifer Radesky, a fellow at the Boston Medical Center working on developmental behavioral pediatrics. She and her research team quietly observed 55 caregivers out eating at fast food restaurants with their children, and discovered that 40 out of the 55 interacted with their phone at some point during their meals, ranging from checking the phone on occasion to using it for the entirety of the meal.
What might prompt adults to be on their phones during such important mealtimes? Usually two things: social media or work. The social media, I cannot condone. If you really want to be on social media 24/7, please just don’t take your family out to eat. Stay home. There’s just no point in a family outing if you’re going to be on your phone the whole time. I’m sure many parents with teenagers say the same thing to them, so I say the same to you parents. Work, on the other hand is hard. I know adults and parents are very busy. But that’s where balance comes in. You have to strike a balance between caring for your children properly and giving them the attention they need with attending to your work if any at home. I can’t give advice on that, I’m still struggling to figure out how to balance school and sleep, so you might want to seek another blogger on that. All in all, it needs to happen.
When I was in my first year of college, I learned of this really cool trick to keep everyone in the group from pulling out their phones during meals. It’s called a phone stack: everyone pulls out their phones and makes a stack on the table with the phones facing down so no one can see their notifications. Whoever reached for the phone first had to pay for everyone’s meal (though we rarely followed up with that part). It’s sad that we had to resort to such great lengths just to talk to each other, but it’s a practical solution.
If you continue to consume yourself with your cellular devices, tablets, laptops, and other forms of technology during family time, you will make your children feel neglected. They’ll come to associate that the phones are better and more important than them and you won’t even know that you’re doing it. Then, when it comes time for you to give them a tablet or a phone, they won’t give you the time of the day and you’ll wonder where it all went wrong. Alright that’s a bit dramatic, but you’re supposed to be the example for your kids live by, right?
So a word of advice for you parents: Put the phones away, or else you’re grounded!
Image and study sources: