How many times have you been to a family restaurant only to see a happy foursome ordering appetizers and entrees with their connected noses stuck deep down into their phones. Here they are, out on a Saturday night to spend time as a family – and each and every one of them is involved in self-absorbed socialism, making sure that they don’t miss a beat with friends and co-workers. It’s a sad and pretty pathetic sight and the truth is it is more common today than ever before. Even though families are super busy, and are often entrenched in a ‘pass and repass’ life that has them hardly truly connecting with one another; when they are together – they somehow aren’t! It would almost be nice if law enforcement and judicial hubs would work to pressure authorities into a law that states, “No cell phones at the dinner table,” with as much energy as they have the texting and driving laws.
The sad truth is that on some level, cell phones at the dinner table are likely just as dangerous as they are when used while driving. In a twisted sort of events that has driven technology to keep people more connected, it has actually been counter productive and often keeps familial souls apart, more than together. If the family connection gets lost among FaceBook, and if parents forget how to speak to their children and text instead – what type of world will be left with?
Parents complain all the time that life has become so fast paced that they feel they don’t get to spend enough time with their children. Yet the fragile moments they do spend together, whether driving in car pools or eating at a nice restaurant are spent communicating with other people. While it is nothing new for pre-teens and teens to want to be able to connect with their friends instead of their parents – the age of ‘disconnect’ is getting younger than ever. A recent technology poll stated that around half of all children the age of 9, already have cell phones. And Facebook accounts, despite the fact that you are supposed to be 13 before setting up an account. And with all of these social connections synced into a cell phone – the cell phone becomes an escape cave for children to leave their families even when they are together.
Gone are the days of making the kiddos sit in the back of a minivan listening to old renditions from Grease or Barry Manilow records. Now, the kids sit happily tuned into their Ipods or cell phones or other media devices listening through headphones so as not to disturb one another. So instead of sharing to merge the generational gap, and putting the kids through ‘embarrassing’ and dated means of being together, we are separating. Also gone are the days of the family dinner, where family members would gather around a table for a meal and share in something called an actual conversation.
Even worse, is that it isn’t just kids to blame. Parents too are so connected to emails, and literally jump out of their skin in order to answer a ringing cell phone or Blackberry. They too, sit at the dinner table – or in a car pool, or in restaurants completely connected to everyone else except for the people, they are physically with. Important conversations are put on hold because the adults in this world, have forgotten that it is rude to answer the phone during dinner, or during a conversation. But they cannot help themselves, and so they lead by example – teaching their children to do the same thing.
Interesting studies have been done recently about how toddlers often feel threatened by the perceived threat of mom and dads computer or cell phone. Perhaps that is why so many of them end up in toilets, with frustrated three year olds trying quickly to kill out the new brand of sibling rivalry. Think about it, is the theory really that far fetched?
Years ago, dinnertime was sacred. You didn’t visit other families or friends, or neighbors during dinnertime. Remember the busy single….that meant that a family was eating dinner. Together. As a family. The television was turned off, and the conversations although often unbearable, and boring, and even tedious (especially to those teens) was a sacred…family….nightly event. Today, fewer than half of all families eat together three times a week. And when they do, the rules of yesterday based on simple etiquette and manners seem to have been banished.
Maybe, just maybe – it would be worthwhile to go back to the days of Leave it to Beaver and to enforce a rule in your home that says, cell phones are not welcome at the dinner table. Maybe turning off the cell phones, the computers, the personal devices that serve no more than to disconnect us from the ones we love the most would be the first step in reasserting the importance of family and ensuring that our children don’t forget the importance of family time. While it may not be the 1950’s anymore, statistics seem to indicate that our older generations may have a lot to teach us about family values and love.