[This is part 2 of a 3 part series on Teens & Technology. Did you read part one?]
If you are a parent of a teen or work with them in any capacity, you know how attached they are to their cell phones. They are constantly checking their text messages or the time. If they have a smart phone, they are probably also surfing the Net, updating their Facebook status, or playing the latest game of Angry Birds.
A recent study from The Hartman Group looked at this attachment at this important family social setting, the dinning room table.
Does your family have a rule about checking devices at the dinner table?
I know my own personal experience has been that we also eat meals together. It does not matter what is going on with life, dinner is family time and we need to be fully present. The topics range from school to girlfriends to our futures. Cell phones were just becoming popular and we had a rule to leave them out of the dining room and kitchen.
Below is a brief overview of what they found.
- 29% of social media users are on a social networking website while eating or drinking at home.
- 32% of us text or socialize on a mobile device at meal time.
- Specifically with the age range of 18-34 year olds — Twitter, Facebook and texting during mealtimes are at a higher rate of 47%.
Looking For Better Communication
Now that we know the statistics, how can we take steps to come around to true conversations that are not disrupted by phones?
- Establish something now, before it is a problem.
- Include your teens in the process of coming up with the rules and the reasons behind the decisions.
- Parents, you need to follow the rules too. Work emergencies that are not life and death are less important than family.
- Do not stop at putting phones on vibrate. Turn them off and have a phone basket outside of the kitchen and dining room to put them in before you sit down to eat.
- Encourage conversations and find out what is going on in their lives.
- Take it to making the meal too. Put the phones away and make a night of it frequently where they help you make fun dinners and create family memories together.
- Your job includes supporting the parents, so let go of that need to be cool and encourage no phones when you eat with teens.
- Make a game of it. It’s called Flip The Bill. Everyone stacks their phones in the center of the table at a restaurant.
- First person to check their phone for any reason has to pay for everyone’s meals.
- Make it better. If multiple people check, all who check have to share the cost.
- If no one checks, everyone pays for their own.
Love on teens, even if it means suffering through a little complaining now. In 20 years, if their faces are on their phones, they won’t have those memories. But if we put them away and share life together, we can impact their lives unlike any other time or place in their lives.
What would you add to these lists to help teens have better conversations?
[Image via goodncrazy]