Is Family Chatter At The Dinner Table Dead?

Modern families are now more likely to text or email at the dinner table than discuss their day, a study has found.

Historically, the evening meal was the time for busy families to sit down together, unwind and talk about their day at school or work.

But now, the average family finds time to sit down to just four meals a week together – with one of those spent in complete silence because everyone is tapping away on their phones.

One in ten even admitted they often eat in silence with almost one quarter blaming technology for the lack of conversation.

More than half (56%) of mums and dads regularly find themselves alone at the table – because the kids dash off as soon as they finish their food.

The study of 2,000 parents by Old El Paso found eight in ten believe it’s important to sit and eat dinner together as a family.

Mums who took part in the research laid down the law and came up with a list of rules which they believe should NEVER be broken during mealtimes.

No elbows on the table, no texting or emailing and no hats or caps all featured on the list.

Lindsay Hill of Old El Paso said: “With our increasingly busy lifestyles and the effects of technology, many families are now finding it harder to have meaningful meal times together.

“This is despite many agreeing they can be an ideal opportunity to sit down and catch up.”

Psychologist and behavioural expert Emma Kenny added; “Modern life is hectic and it is very easy to let family meals go on the back burner.

“The truth is, eating together is critical to a harmonious and connected family life, and is often the only time that everyone gets chance to sit down to catch up with other family members all in one place.

“Making sure that mealtimes are a technology free zone is critical to family cohesion and means that every family member can be fully present whilst enjoying a nutritious and delicious shared meal.”

The study also found more than a third (32 per cent) of parents said they had to sit down for family dinners every night of the week when they were growing up.

But one in ten admit that as parents themselves, with their own family, they never gather at the dinner table for their evening meal and even those who do, spend just 18 minutes sat around the table.

One in twenty even admitted they are lucky to last five minutes before everyone goes off to do their own thing.

Eighteen per cent blame the TV while more than a tenth said their quality time at the table was affected by social media.

The study also found the average family faces two arguments during an evening meal, with 62 per cent further admitting they will argue every night of the week, and suffer two meals a week where children complain about what they have to eat.

Sixty-eight per cent of parents admit they need to make more effort to sit together as a family at the dinner table, with eight in ten believing mealtimes are an ideal opportunity to spend time together.

Other rules mums swear by include encouraging children to try a bite of everything, no rude conversation, getting everyone involved in preparing the food and making ‘shareable and interactive’ dishes to help create more meaningful mealtimes.

Lindsay Hill added: “Taking the time out of our busy schedules and putting down the tech can be difficult so Old El Paso wants to help families reclaim mealtimes, with fun, delicious and sharable food like our Stand ‘N’ Stuff Mini Soft Tortillas – perfect for little hands.

“Get messy and break the rules and make dinner yours again.”

MUM’S TOP 20 MEALTIME LAWS:

1. No gadgets
2. Give everyone a chance to chat about their day
3. No phone calls/text messages or emails during mealtimes
4. No TV during the meal
5. No toys at the table
6. Ask your children questions to encourage conversation
7. No talking with your mouthful
8. No arguments
9. Let the whole family involved in food preparation
10. Children should help lay the table and clear up after a meal
11. Everyone has to stay at the table until the last person has finished eating
12. Make dishes sharable and interactive
13. No rude or inappropriate conversation
14. Be more inventive with cooking
15. Try at least one bite of everything
16. Plan a weekly menu so everyone knows what to expect
17. Everyone sits in the same seats each mealtime to avoid rows
18. No hats or caps
19. If you don’t eat all of your meal, you don’t get any pudding
20. No elbows on the table

TOP FIVE THINGS WHICH STOP US FROM HAVING MEANINGFUL MEALTIMES:

1. Tech – phones and gadgets
2. TV
3. Hectic social schedules
4. After school activities
5. Parents long working hours

  • Mat is a writer with an interest in public opinion research. He has a passion for stories covering lifestyle, travel and technology.

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