Tech-Free Tables with Dolmio

Is this a familiar sight at your dinner table?
DSC_5834

A recent survey carried out by Dolmio discovered that over half of us say that technology at meal times has a negative impact – and it’s easy to see why.  Just look at the picture above, every one of us is staring at a screen, even Amy is trying to check out what’s going on on Chloe’s screen.  There’s no conversation, no laughter, no interaction full stop.  What sort of a family meal time is that?!

As a family, we’ve always been really strict about the kids’ tablets – they always ask before they use them, they’re not allowed them upstairs, they’re not allowed them after tea time etc.  Not having their tech at the table has always been something of an unwritten rule, they’ve never asked and we’ve never had to say “no” – the expectation is just there.  That said, Mummy and Daddy don’t always follow the same rules.  My own mobile phone (which is basically an extension of my right arm at times) is often found on the dinner table, albeit usually face down.  Sometimes it’s there because I’m using it to control the music we’re listening to over dinner, which is fine in itself but if it’s there, I’m afraid the temptation to quickly check it if it pings a notification is just too great.

Family on their phones at dinner

Of course the nature of my job is that I’m almost always connected to the internet, interacting on social media or checking my emails for information about deadlines and briefs or chasing invoices but actually I need to get a grip of that.  I need to put my phone down at mealtimes and just be with my family.  I can just imagine what my Grandma would have to say if she saw that picture of us all sat staring at screens instead of chatting to each other!  Nobody in the world is more important than the people sat around my dinner table so everyone else can wait right?

One in three households have tried to ban tech during meal times and almost half say they feel like they have no way of stopping it!  Even celebrity mum, Louise Redknapp admits that “There are times when we say “Right, no devices over dinner” but they gradually creep back in”.

Louise’s top tips for a tech-free table include:

  1. We all put our devices face down in the middle of the table during dinner – if anyone picks theirs up before we are all finished then they have to do the washing up!
  2. In the summer it’s great because the Wi-Fi isn’t as strong in the garden so we always make sure we eat outside when the sun is shining which helps avoids any tech interruptions.
  3. I find that involving the boys in the cooking of their favourite meal (Spaghetti Bolognese) and giving them jobs such as laying the table etc really helps to distract them and get them away from the TV and off their devices.
  4. Another tip is to put all of the devices in a ‘tech stash drawer’ – if I’m really struggling to stop the boys from picking up their devices from the table during dinner, we all have to put the phones, tablets and laptops in the drawer until mealtime is over.
  5. It sounds very simple to say but leading by example is key – myself and my husband don’t use our devices during dinner, half an hour of not replying to a message or an email isn’t going to do any harm, so the boys see that and follow our lead.

I would suggest, that if tech is encroaching on your family meal times to such an extent, that a blanket ban might feel too much to start with and perhaps just one meal a week would be a great first step.  Tech free Tuesdays or Facebook Free Fridays . . . one meal a week where your tablet, your phone, your tech in general is left in another room – on silent or even switched off – while you all enjoy a family meal together.  One meal doesn’t sound so hard does it?

Family meal

Pleasingly, 82 per cent of parents surveyed by Dolmio said that tech-free mealtimes are happier and 56 per cent said they saw a vast improvement with everyone around the table talking – if that’s not encouragement enough to instigate “tech-free tables” then I don’t know what is!

We don’t sit down to eat at the table together as often as I would like, our mid week evenings are crazy busy with clubs etc and the kids are usually too hungry to wait for Daddy to get home from work and cook.  (Regular readers will know that Dave is a proper “man about the kitchen” and does the lion’s share of the cooking in our house!)  What we do try to do is make sure we have our weekend meals together, sat around the table.  I must admit there are times when I really don’t want to do this as I want to just eat my dinner in peace and not have to discuss whether it’s ok to leave the peas or what the difference is between bacon and ham whilst debating if the food is too “spiky” or not.  (Chloe’s term for spicy!)  Thank goodness for pasta!

Dolmio Pasta meal

Over the school holidays we’ve been really lax about meal times with lots of living room picnics in front of the tv . . . Come September this will have to stop.  I’m conscious that we need to set the precedent of family meal times now though as it will get harder as the children are older and have “better things to do” than sit down with us and eat!  Hopefully we can maintain the expectation that we sit together for our meals and that we eat at the dining table, not in our bedrooms or in front of the telly!

Family eating pasta

*Collaborative post*

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136 Comments

  1. Louise A
    September 20, 2016 / 12:09 am

    All gadgets left in different room until meal is over so we can talk to each other

  2. paula cheadle
    September 20, 2016 / 12:34 am

    No tech at the table only talking and eating or having a drink goes on at my table

  3. Samantha Parkes
    September 20, 2016 / 12:46 am

    We eat in the kitchen at the table, never had a problem with my child using gadgets at the table as we talk about her day at school

  4. Laura Harrison
    September 20, 2016 / 1:30 am

    None at the table, no television on, talk about the day and what is planned for the week etc xxx

  5. Lucy Chester
    September 20, 2016 / 6:26 am

    No phones at the table and we do not have a tv in the dining room, we chat about the day and just stuff really

  6. Jenny Prest
    September 20, 2016 / 6:53 am

    Lead by example!

  7. Hayley Todd
    September 20, 2016 / 10:37 am

    My best tip is to set a time for dinner and stick to that time everyday, so that the kids know how long they have left to ensure their game is saved, their conversation is finished etc so that we can enjoy meal times as a family. I do give them notice as the clock ticks closer to meal time so they are aware of exactly how long they have left.

  8. grainne marnell-fox
    September 20, 2016 / 10:58 am

    Lead by example!

  9. Jacqueline Roberts
    September 20, 2016 / 11:10 am

    My kids know not to take tech to the table even if we’re out they won’t look at their phones.

  10. sandy
    September 20, 2016 / 11:29 am

    don’t tell the kids to do it if you can’t do it yourself. And be consistent 🙂

  11. Laura Corrall
    September 20, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    We try to have definitive areas for everything. So the bed for example is for sleeping only. Not for playing on. The dining table is for dining (and homework, but that’s still no tech needed at the moment). I’m such this will become harder as my girls get older. But trying to make such they know where they can and can’t use tech now, hopefully means we won’t have tech at the table when they are older.

  12. Kirsti Peters
    September 20, 2016 / 12:06 pm

    Turn off the Wifi at dinner time

  13. Barbara Handley
    September 20, 2016 / 12:44 pm

    Never allow it in the first place so meals are for family time.

  14. Jayne Townson
    September 20, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    Set rules by example, so no body brings any tech to the table even the adults. Thanks for the lovely giveaway.

  15. katy bulcock
    September 20, 2016 / 3:04 pm

    the adults put there electronics away whereas we tell our 2 year old everything needs charging when hes having his dinner as hes getting his belly charged too so thats how we deal with that one 🙂

  16. Aimee Wright
    September 20, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    Not allowing any phones, iPads etc. into the room whilst we’re eating.

  17. Tracey Harman
    September 20, 2016 / 4:13 pm

    Dinner time has always been family time , the one time of day when we all talk about our days no gadgets or TV allowed from the minute Dinner is being prepared until after the washing up is done . I made this rule 30 years ago with my children and now they have the same rule for theirs

  18. Tracey Susan Anderson
    September 20, 2016 / 4:33 pm

    Get the whole family involved if possible from preperation of dinner to the clearing up afterwards then make family fun time for at least an hour by starting a project, playing a board game, arts and crafts in fact anything you may wish to do apart from NO tech!

  19. tammi nutting
    September 20, 2016 / 6:06 pm

    we have always had no tv no tech at the dining table its lovely to have real conversations

  20. Nicki Simpson
    September 20, 2016 / 6:44 pm

    It probably isn’t the best mannered tip but we actually challenge our daughter (daphne, 3) to race us to eat certain bits of veg….it keeps her engaged at the table, otherwise it would be difficult to have a tech free meal to be honest

  21. Lisa Mcalley
    September 20, 2016 / 7:07 pm

    I dont let my 4 kids have any technology until after meals and its only if homework is finished. I also make sure they all eat at a table too.

  22. Emma
    September 20, 2016 / 7:55 pm

    Leave phones elsewhere in the house

  23. Diana
    September 20, 2016 / 8:40 pm

    It’s just a rule in our house 🙂

  24. Natalie Crossan
    September 20, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    No technology until all the veggies are eaten! That works in my house!

  25. amanda greensmith
    September 20, 2016 / 9:29 pm

    tech is banned from the dinner table thats the place we talk about the day and any problems

  26. sandy ralph
    September 20, 2016 / 9:34 pm

    turn off the router at the box then the family will have to join in the conversations at meal times

  27. Nikki Hunter-Pike
    September 20, 2016 / 9:39 pm

    Lead by example and dont have your phone to the table!

  28. Anneka Hulse
    September 20, 2016 / 9:43 pm

    play your own games over dinner that include all the family and rules for no tech at the table

  29. chris bull
    September 20, 2016 / 9:46 pm

    Turn off the wi-fi 🙂

  30. Julie Whittaker
    September 20, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    Sit at the table and talk about what to do for the coming weekend.

  31. September 20, 2016 / 10:06 pm

    Turn off the wifi!! hehe!

  32. Karl Borowy
    September 20, 2016 / 10:59 pm

    COMMON SENSE

  33. September 20, 2016 / 11:16 pm

    We put the 2 year old in charge of the no tech rule, she’s great at it, you don’t get away with “I just need to check this email quick”. She also does it when her uncles come to visit. They can’t really say anything when their 2 year old niece says “no phones at the table please, its a bit rude”

  34. joanne cox
    September 20, 2016 / 11:37 pm

    Always leave mobile phones alone or no dessert! Family meal time is really special time.

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