Take the Device Free Dinner Challenge

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When my kids were younger I insisted on mealtimes being device free. That wasn’t as big a sacrifice as it sounds. It was back in the day when flip phones were all the rage, so phones weren’t nearly the distraction they are today.

Fast forward 10 years to where handheld devices and technology have become ubiquitous. Our screens are on the table, in our car headrests, and in the palms of our hands. From our bedrooms to the bathroom, on a plane, in the car, screens are everywhere.

Combine this with our busy schedules and you realize it’s become a real challenge for most people to sit down and connect with their families. A survey by Common Sense Media found over half the parents and caregivers polled said they were concerned about technology detracting from quality family time at dinner; 47 percent said family members had brought a device to the table and 35 percent admitted that it had resulted in an argument.

Enter the Device Free Dinner Challenge.

Recognizing that children whose family regularly share meals have better socialization skills, develop a larger vocabulary, understand more about nutrition, are less likely to act out, and are less likely to engage in substance abuse, Common Sense Media developed a program encouraging families to go device free and engage in conversation.

Looking at your weekly calendar, the prospect of carving out regular, relaxing meals may seem as likely as convincing your toddler that a bathing suit, rubber boots and a toque is not an acceptable outfit for playing in the snow. (FYI, I’ve had that conversation.)

The last thing any parent needs is another guilt trip or the suggestion that they’re falling short in yet another area of parenting. The idea is to try. Be intentional in carving out one or two nights a week to sit down as a family and connect with your kids. Play games like “Best thing/Worst thing”, “Who Am I?”, Twenty Questions, or “Would You Rather…” if you’re stuck for conversation starters. Dinner itself doesn’t need to be complex – frozen pizza or takeout counts as dinner just as much as pot roast or taco night.

Stepping away from our devices is a healthy move for all of us – mom and dad included – and modeling behavior is the surest way of demonstrating to your kids the kind of habits you want them to develop.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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