Can Your Family Survive a Device Free Dinner? Take the Challenge!

Jul 15, 2017

While it’s true that nothing brings people—especially families—together quite like food, unfortunately once gathered, nothing can distract them faster than technology.

The next time you head out to a restaurant or sit down for a family dinner, take a quick mental survey of exactly how many people have a device either on the table or in their hands. You may find that it’s easier to count the amount of people who don’t fall into either category.

It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault—we live in an age of technology where everyone and anything is a tap, voice command, or swipe away. In fact, a survey by Common Sense Media of 1,200 parents and teens found that 69 percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly, and 49 percent of parents and 72 percent of teens “feel the need to immediately respond to texts and notifications.”

Creating Tech-Free Time

Despite feeling this need, there are boundaries, such as the creation of tech-free time and zones. For example, 66 percent of survey respondents said devices aren’t allowed at the dinner table. The idea of a device-free dinner has gained traction and developed into a movement to get more families to try turning off all devices before a family dinner and enjoy the time free of distraction. Common Sense Media started this campaign encouraging families to put aside their devices and focus on each other at the dinner table, check out the website for more info.

Having experienced family gatherings that have a device-free dinner rule and some that don’t, I’ve noticed that there are significant benefits to a distraction-free environment when dining.

In my house, we have an agreement of no cell phone use during family dinners unless it’s an emergency. Although our cell phones do stay on (tablets don’t make it to the table at all), we adjust the settings to vibrate, and either keep them off the table or face down. We’re a pretty silly bunch, so dinner usually entails a prayer of thanks, plenty of laughter, a heap of sarcasm, discussion of current events, debates about who’s cleaning up what (I always cook therefore “mom” usually cleans up nothing), and catching up on each other’s lives.

That’s not to say that we don’t have tense or awkward moments that send some emotions flying (let’s be honest: family dinners can get tense and awkward depending on personalities and situations), however, the lack of a tech distraction helps us to be more present and mindful in guiding the conversation to a safe landing (so to speak).

But, hey, don’t just take my word for it, take the challenge!


If you rarely (or never) have a device-free dinner, give it a try and see what differences, if any, you notice. You never know; you may see a side of your tween that manages to convince you they aren’t from Mars and are, in fact, your kid.