Technology is a barrier to Irish family connection at mealtimes according to newly published research.
In a world where we are more connected than ever, we are increasingly disconnected and distracted from our loved ones. From iPads and phones at the dinner table to arguments over what Netflix show is on in the background – even mealtimes have become a tech minefield.
Research conducted and commissioned by Dolmio shows that parents’ battle technology at mealtimes on a daily basis, with an average of twelve internet connected gadgets/devices per household. Two thirds of parents (66 per cent) surveyed said that technology at mealtimes has a negative impact, 38 per cent of parents have tried unsuccessfully to ban tech when eating and close to half (48 per cent) feel like they have no way of stopping tech at the table.
Mealtimes offer the perfect opportunity to talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives – this and good food are described as the ideal dinner according to 38 per cent of parents surveyed. That’s reinforced by 82 per cent of parents who said that mealtimes devoid of tech were positive and 55 per cent who said they saw a vast improvement with everyone around the table talking. Sharing a meal with family and friends with no tech was seen by 42 per cent of parents as a much more enjoyable experience with a rare few, one per cent, believing meal times are made better with technology.
72 per cent of family arguments at the table stem from tech. On average, 2.49 families’ dinners each week are interrupted by technology distractions and one in five (18%) say that it happens at least five nights a week.
Dolmio working with John Sharry, CEO Parents Plus Charity and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the UCD School of Psychology offers this advice to parents concerned by tech disruption at their dinner tables.
”We use technology to connect with each other more than ever before – but sometimes all this online connection can lead to disconnection in real life, especially when it interrupts communication during the family meal as this research highlights. The family meal is an important centre point of family life and communication. Shared meals with family and friends are one of the best opportunities to bring us closer together. Together with Dolmio, we have created practical solutions that I hope will help families switch off from their busy lives and help them better connect with their loved ones at the dinner table.”
John Sharry’s top five practical tips to managing tech to better protect family togetherness at the table:
- Explain to children the importance of family meal time, sell it positively as a time to relax, share news and chat together.
- Involve children in preparation and cooking of meals to keep them busy and involved before dinner time – with older children create a rota of who cooks, washes up etc. and plan meals that everyone enjoys.
- Agree a simple ‘no technology’ rule, at dinner time (TV, phones and tablets all switched off). Model this rule yourself – you decide to be 100% present at mealtimes.
- Create a good routine around family meals, fixed times and certain duration etc. Aim for one special family night a week, when the meal is followed by treats and family games etc.
- Start small: if you currently have few family meals together, commit to just one a week. Make this fun and enjoyable and then expand to have meals on other days.
Also spare a thought for parents in Connacht who top the list for the biggest problem with technology at mealtimes:
1. Connacht (76 per cent)
2. Leinster (67 per cent)
3. Munster (56 per cent)
4. Dublin (64 per cent)
5. Ulster (51 per cent)
Televisions are no longer the major hijacker of meal times, parents say 80 per cent more device distractions include:
- Smartphones: 55 per cent and 66 per cent in households with 16-24 year olds
- Tablets: 39 per cent in households with 6-10 year olds
- Laptops: 16 per cent
- Toys and hand held gaming devices: 12 per cent
- E-readers: 3 per cent
So it comes as no surprise that tech distractions on the devices can take many forms, the top three being:
- Social media, 50%
- Video or music streaming, 31%
- Gaming, 22%