It’s time to unplug during dinner, America!
If you and your children spend more time online during meals than talking, you’re missing a benchmark in raising your child.
No judgment, the truth is parents are exhausted. In the past, parents raising children had stronger external support systems. Parents lived in the same city, sometimes neighborhood as grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
One parent stayed home, and two-income families were less common. Today, there are more single parents than married ones, and in both blended and traditional families, both parents often work outside of the home.
Parents can’t go without a break, and one is deserved, but experts suggest not using a smartphone, iPad, or any other technological device to keep the kids occupied, especially during meal time. When doing so, it perpetuates the vision cycle of exhaustion for both parent and child. It can cause attention deficit disorder, lack of focus and in some extreme cases, social media addiction.
The first time I had toddlers in my home, I didn’t even have a smartphone. The big “no no” at the time, was a television in the bedroom. I used to judge parents who let their children fall asleep watching a Disney movie.
It seemed as though they didn’t care that their child was developing a bad habit, but the truth of the matter was that the parents were passing along a habit that they had themselves. They watched television before bed too and sometimes programmed the tube to turn off in case they fell asleep with it on.
I fell into the same pattern but not with tv, it was with technology. When I became a mom the second time around, I found myself suddenly single and exhausted with toddlers. Then entered the smartphone. I am sad to admit that I may not have had a television in the bedroom, but I did opt to watch a short YouTube video of funny animals instead of reading to my kids when tucking them into bed. Convenience is contagiously tempting. To the world at large, I apologize. I wasn’t always so strong.
But, I also confess ignorance. We were first gen smartphone users and felt rich with our luxury. Now, I’m equipped with new knowledge. Tech teaches laziness and is a threat to the American family. When parents (myself included) hand a phone over during dinner or bedtime, when we could be teaching the next gen something of value with our words, we rob them of their capacity to focus. Yes, parental exhaustion compels us to do it. It takes energy to discipline a child, to listen with full attention at the end of the day.
And, yes, it feels like there’s not enough time in the day to do it all. But it’s unhealthy, and it’s wrong, and it’s something that has become more common than not despite the fact that The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time a day for children 2-5 and older children, too.
Every hour a child spends on social media or a smart device, they are at an increased risk of developing anxiety, addiction, and attention disorders. Ask any teacher in the classroom. Attention in class is lacking and perhaps tech is one of the reasons why.
Children who eat dinner with their parents make better citizens. What can you do instead to make table time more enjoyable when you don’t have any energy left in your pinky toe let alone your entire body? Put a board game on the table and make it a routine to do it as a family.
Gladwell Maxwell, a prolific author, says that his family used to have a puzzle on the table that they would solve a little bit at a time, and that it made an impact on his life. Take to heart the words of Ronald Reagan who said, “All great change begins at the dinner table,” and remember that the person who serves dinner to your children each night is you.
Your presence and conversation makes a difference — nothing replaces you as the primary role model in your child’s life.