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Device Free Dinners

This article explains the increasing distractions stemming from the availability of digital devices, describes their effect on our social interactions, and offers pathways to reduce their weight on our lives.

Imagine having a very special family dinner that you’ve all been preparing and waiting for. The guests finally ring the bell and you’re opening the door with much excitement until you realize that your cousin came with his annoying friend, although no one invited her. 

Now you are sitting at the table. All acting weird. All talking less. All looking at each other and waiting this long-anticipated night to end – all because of this unwelcomed friend. 

In the above story, this cousin is YOU every time you bring your phone to the table, although no one invites you saying: “Hey. Food is ready. Come eat and bring your phone with you.” 

Before you’re tempted to think that these are fun, innocent and useful devices, read how phones, tablets, laptops, televisions and all other virtual tech devices are really changing our life: 

  • In language, we now have the new word “Phubbing” which means using your phone while someone is trying to interact with you. This was found to make other people feel less heard, and in response, they grab their own phone to pass the situation. 

  • 90% of people report feeling “Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” which is thinking your phone vibrated when it hasn’t actually buzzed, or hearing it ringing when no one has actually called you. 

  • Constantly receiving and checking notifications from our devices train our brains to stay in constant alert and stress. If you add up the time every time you check your phone even for a minute, you would be surprised knowing the number of hours you spend on the screen without realizing it. 

  • Doctors reported new muscle problems called “Text Claw” and “Cell Phone Elbow” (the non-medical version of their names) caused by cramps and aches felt after tapping with your fingers or bending your elbow for so long while using the phone. 

  • The trend of FOMO (fear of missing out) is now on the rise. People are afraid to go off social media so that they don’t miss anything happening around them – another form of anxiety that stops people from being at their best. 

For all those reasons and many more, excessively using your phone can affect your body, habits, and relationships with others, especially in social gatherings – if you are still attending any. 

For Parents and Caregivers 

For you at a very specific note, using any technological device isn’t only an individual harm but also a collective one that can affect the well-being of your family in many ways. 

     1. Threatens Family Activities 

Family routines are repeated shared activities that aim to build a sense of stability and security between parents and children, such as a good night kiss, a congregational family prayer, or a dinner gathering. Staying busy with any digital device especially your phone can interfere with many family activities and indirectly threaten a child’s sense of feeling loved and protected. 

     2. Reduces Optimal Time Investment 

Quality time is an essential formula to a strong parent-child relationship. It can be achieved by having dinner, playing together, or going out. Those moments make children feel most comfortable to express what’s bothering them, just like parents might find it a perfect time to pass on valuable lessons. 

     3. Interferes with Social Emotional Learning (SEL) 

It’s Social Emotional Learning, a skill increasingly important for children learning how to interact with their environment in a healthy manner. With family being the first experimental lab for children’s communication, using digital devices similar to mobile phones and tablets, during social gatherings can impose serious obstacles for teaching children how to read body language, interpret emotions, and put them into words. 


Let’s Discuss Some Solutions 

     1. Be the role model 

Parents are the most influential on their kids especially when they’re still young. Use your phones wisely and they’ll do the same with their tech-gadgets. 

     2. Make it a family challenge  

Download an app that tracks your screen time, and every week, read out loud the time spent by each. The person who spends the least time gets rewarded. 

     3. Turn screen time into a privilege 

Screen time shouldn’t be something always accessible. Set a time limit for your children and make use of extending this time or reducing it as a means of behavior development. 

     4. Dedicate tech-free zones 

Especially bedrooms and dining tables. Limit technological devices to the living room and another place where you might need to install a desktop for research or play purposes. 

     5. Encourage physical activity 

Enroll your child in football and sports classes. It doesn’t only keep them away from technology but also gives them the same excitement reward they seek from their screens. 

     6. Look for tech-substitutes 

Get an actual alarm clock. Carry a physical notebook. Buy a paper book instead of reading it online, because we sometimes pick up our phones for innocent purposes but end up using them longer than intended. 

     7. Talk about it 

Nothing substitutes a good conversation about the dangers of excessive screen time. You can use family dinner for this awareness discussion about being in control of our tech-devices before they end up controlling us. 

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Call to Action

Reduce your and your loved ones’ attachment to digital devices, pay attention to the people around you, and enhance your social life. Read the tips on how to do a digital detox.

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