I’m a “no cell phone at the table” advocate, so this guest post really caught my eye.  As a parent, you know when your kid is looking down with his hands in his lap, that he’s not ashamed of something…he’s texting a friend about a party.  My boys know when I put my hand out, it means, “That phone is MINE now.”  And 🙂 they’re now policing me and my husband, and won’t tolerate OUR occasional slip with phones at the table either, which is as it should be.  I published a post a while back, “Keep your cell phone out of the cranberry sauce” about preserving the sanctity of the Thanksgiving dinner table as a cell-free zone, but really, with our busy lifestyles, EVERY meal should be tech-free and a precious time to connect.

Thanks to Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPS, a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking:  A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever, for this guest post on the ways technology is taking over too many tables, and for her ideas on how to have a tech-free family dinner.

She describes going out to dinner and noticing a new interaction she calls “electronic parenting” – kids immersed in iPads or phones and not their parents.  And while the electronics were “babysitting” the kids, the parents weren’t taking advantage to engage with each other.  “Dad was fidgeting with his phone; Mom looked frazzled,” she recalls.  Rapini thought about this and reflected, “Family dinner is about so much more than eating.  Parenting has a lot to do with setting boundaries, saying no, and also making sure you teach your child appropriate social behavior.  If your child is on the phone or iPad during dinner, they are in their own virtual world and not engaged with the family.”

She admits that we’re more electronically oriented, that smart phones are smarter than many humans, and that as we grow with technology, it will be even more important to set boundaries.  She recommends, “Stay engaged with your kids and spouse, and keep sacred some of the family rituals such as family meals.”  Here are some great tips she shares for our readers…

1.  Have family meals during the week as much as possible.  Include your whole family.

2.  Have a plate or container where all electronics are dropped prior to dinner.  Make sure you silence them as the noise of a text or email incites the mind and distracts from family.

3.  Conversation at the dinner table should be kept at a level where everyone can hear one another.

4.  Make sure you remember you are parents and not your child’s friend.  If a derogatory word or motion is made at the table, correct your child/spouse.  The dinner table should be family-friendly.

5.  Continue to show respect and manners with your child at the dinner table.  One of a parent’s most important jobs is socializing their child so the child can feel confident in his/her ability to demonstrate manners and respect for others.

Rapini adds, “We cannot go backwards in time, nor should we, but as we continue into the digital age, there are some rituals we must keep sacred as a family.  Family dinners are one of those.”

Author Bio:  Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPS, a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking:  A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever.

Editor’s Note:  I agree 100% – and love her tips!  You’ll never regret special, focused family time, and one more text or email at the expense of family time won’t make a difference…What do you think?  Is your dinner tech-free?  Does it bother you in restaurants when you look around and feel like you’re at a technology conference?  Chime in!  Add a comment to this post.