Gadgets at Dinner

ipad dinnerSitting in a restaurant the other day, there were two little girls watching a movie on their iPad. They were laughing, carrying on and screaming at the scary parts. The patrons at the other tables were visibly irritated by the noise, yet the parents of the girls did nothing to quiet them. On the contrary, they promoted their behavior. After all, the parents are the ones who gave them the iPad to begin with.

Most people go out to enjoy a dinner and a nice conversation. It is a special occasion for them. They don’t go out to listen to movies being played on an iPad or the screams of children who are watching it.

Instead of teaching children manners, they are handed a gadget to babysit them with. They are no longer taught how to sit quietly in public areas or how to have respect for others who are nearby. They are no longer disciplined. They are only subdued, with the help of a gadget.

We often read articles on how adults sit across from each other without having conversations, because they are both on their phones. Where did social interaction go? Why go to a restaurant if you’re not going to pay attention to the others at your table? Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay home?

As a child, our dinners out were very special. With excitement, we would all rush to get ready and then out the door we’d go. Arriving at the restaurant, we would quietly arrange our seating to fit our family size. Then, we’d open our menus and scan it for the meal of our choice. Afterward, we would talk to each other. Face to face, with eye contact. We would laugh at each others jokes and pick on one another, respectfully. It was also the ideal time to discuss our day and our plans for the future.

This was all done quietly, within the range of our table. We didn’t shout across the restaurant or laugh so loudly that people across the room could hear us. Most importantly, we held no gadgets in our hands to distract us from each other. We also didn’t need a movie to entertain us. That’s what we had each other for. The people at our table were our entertainment. We simply enjoyed each others company. That’s what dinners out were for. It was family time, not gadget time.

Without natural entertainment, people are missing out on so much. They no longer know how to interact with each other. Conversation starters are now “Look at what my phone can do”, instead of “How was your day?”. Gadgets are excellent tools, designed to make our lives easier and more convenient. There is also an appropriate time and place to use them. Social gatherings should not be one of them.

Our real life relationships are much more important than our battery operated gadget. Both will eventually die, but one can never be replaced.

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24 Responses to Gadgets at Dinner

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who notices these things. We take the gadgets for long car rides and the kids use them at home but they are not allowed at the table whether in a restaurant or at home.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Same here. Road trips get very boring for children and those gadgets definitely help to pass the time. They have their place, but a restaurant isn’t one of them. I miss those good ol’ fashioned family outings.

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  2. suzjones says:

    Well I believe they have their place at times. I have a grandson who is the biggest fidget and sometimes his mother would pull out her phone with a short tv show on it (Bob the Builder I think) so that he would sit still and quiet for a few minutes so that she could enjoy her meal. Whilst I agree that they should not be used as babysitting devices, I believe they have their place.
    For example, yesterday we were at a family gathering and in the conversation that ensued a question was asked. We pondered it but found our answer on google. It steered the conversation further into what we were originally discussing and rather than take away from the atmosphere it assisted iykwim?
    Just my two cents worth. Don’t mind if you give me change. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  3. janyceresh says:

    Technology is a necessary part of life….and so is respect and manners. It’s up to us as a society to ensure that we don’t gain one at the expense of the other. Life is about balance….

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  4. culturemonk says:

    I saw this at the grocery store yesterday as well. The mother had given an ipad to one kid and an ipod to other and they were sitting in the cart as she pushed them around. I understand that kids can get a bit whiny at times out in public, but these two kids were old enough to know better than to misbehave……it’s simply lazy parenting if you ask me.

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  5. April says:

    aha! The problem with our society today. Let’s all ignore each other and see if we disappear. Seriously, IF we went out to dinner with our kids, we knew the places which had fast service. They used crayons and blank sheets of paper, and we discussed what their little minds were creating while waiting for dinner. Today, for some reason, we — well, except for my husband who seems to be attached to his work 24/7 — we don’t use our phones while talking to each other, or eating out. Weird. Maybe it’s because we didn’t allow the habit to start in the first place.

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    • mewhoami says:

      I agree. We had paper and crayons to keep us busy and to the best of my knowledge they still have them in restaurants these days. Why not use them? At least with paper and crayons the kids are not so overly engrossed that they can’t join in the conversation at the table.

      It’s wonderful that this habit was never started in your family. Not having these gadgets at the table makes a huge difference. We have our near us, but rarely do we (I at least) pick it up during family time.

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  6. My youngest son has special needs. The only time we let him use a gadget is in a restaurant or at the dr office (and a few times at a grocery store when I had to finish my shopping that day). He doesn’t have the attention span to sit quietly for longer than 5 minutes. When he’s upset he’ll scream at the top of his lungs, thrash around, throw things, until he makes himself sick. This is the only way we can enjoy a public outing as a family, something our other 3 kids appreciate and we need.

    Unless you have medical experience with his very rare syndrome or recognize signs of prenatal exposure, you won’t see his special needs just by looking. I’m sure lots of strangers think he’s a brat and we’re poor parents.

    That’s not to say this isn’t a real issue and a problem we should all consider carefully in our own lives, but sometimes there’s more to the situation and people are just surviving as best they can.

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    • mewhoami says:

      When it comes to children with special needs, often times the rules don’t apply. My son is autistic and those gadgets may have been a lifesaver when he was younger.

      We still took him out with us, but it was very rare and nerve racking. My son also has never shown by his appearance that he has special needs. I was just seen as the bad parent who couldn’t control his behavior. So, I understand your point very well.

      The girls written about in this post do not have any special needs. I know them quite well and most of the people I see using these gadgets really have no valid reason to be using them, in my opinion. Special needs is an entirely different case. Even still, those children must also be taught manners and respect. It just takes a lot more work and a great deal more patience.

      There are times, places and appropriate situations in which this post does not apply. There are always special circumstances.

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  7. Glynis Jolly says:

    I hear you loud and clear (no pun intended) and I agree most hardily. It was my generation that got it first when the parents got TV trays so that we would all be entertained by the TV at home. When I’m asked what has happened to conversation, I talk about the TV trays.

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    • mewhoami says:

      Glynis, I hadn’t even thought about that. But, you are right on target. It all started when someone decided that the main focus should be the TV, rather than our loved ones. Even typing that is saddening.

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  8. Agree whole-heartedly! There is a big responsibility for parents to teach social interaction and conversation skills to our little ones who are growing up in a screen-filled environment!

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