Web-savvy family: Device-free dinner

By Lynn Hargrove on November 19, 2013
Mobile devices have become a part of our everyday lives. Sitting down to dinner may cause a debate over cellphone use at the table, family movie night may involve our kids also surfing the net or updating social media statuses on their laptops, and tablet games have become a must for the family road trip. Tweens especially are insisting on bringing their devices to family events, not to mention to bed, school, friends’ houses, etc.

As a parent, however, I too am at fault for constantly being on my devices. We have all developed what the kids now are calling ‘FOMO’ or ‘fear of missing out’. We want news and social updates right away; we need to be in the know, even as we pass the salt.

The latest Norton report found that globally1/4 of mobile device users check their devices when sharing a meal with others! It also found that 49% of mobile device users would be upset/concerned if they left home without their mobile device.

While I understand that devices such as cell phones, e-readers, laptops, tablets, etc. are great for work and entertainment, I am trying to diminish them from family outings and events. Here are some tips that I suggest incorporating into family quality time. I am hoping these strategies will also help to reduce device dependency:
  • Use a basket or bin to store all cellphones prior to a meal; family members can only retrieve their phones once the whole meal is finished (dishes too)
  • Engage in hands-on activities; board games or more active options such as soccer or Frisbee require full concentration from your kids (and you!)
  • Create an official device charging station in your home; place this away from bedrooms, so late nights and morning wake-ups are not spent on the phone
  • Why not make it official? Have a contract for all members of the family, outlining key times when cellphones or mobile devices should not be used; have each family member sign and hang it in a highly visible place
  • Use household chores as penalties for breaking the above the contract


Courtesy of Lynn Hargrove, Director of Consumer Solutions for Symantec Canada

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