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Posted in: Blog | March 11, 2021

Family meal time first became popular during the Victorian era. Women, those without servants, needed to get mealtimes over with as quickly as possible, to get everyone out to work on time. The easiest way to do this, was to serve everyone at once, and in the same place. However, the meal times were not relaxed, family times, rather, ‘eat and go’ occasions.

As families grew smaller, so mealtimes became less stressful, and the focus was more on conversation. Both World Wars disrupted this pattern, and post-WW2, saw a return to family mealtimes, and a time of sharing news and information about the various activities and events of their day. Sadly, this coming together as a family, learning how to hold a conversation with both adults, and children, and learning good table manners, was not to last!

The advent of television, and the ubiquitous t.v. dinners, instant finger-food and take out, meant families sat around the t.v., rather than the dining table. The art of conversation began to die. The coming of tablets and android phones, sounded the final death knell.

In 2014, Richard Sah, invented an app for phones and iPads, that would remotely lock such devices at pre-set times. The app was called, ‘The dinner time app.’ Sah said he was finding it impossible to persuade his small children to sit at the table without gazing at a tablet. They would only eat foods they could manage with one hand, and was easy to chew. This quickly became a popular app, but not a successful one. Alas, the app also required parental input! Five years later, in 2019, the ‘Guardian’ published an article calling for a ban on technology in the bedroom also.

All this suggests that we are fighting a losing battle at mealtimes. Technological development is an important aspect of contemporary life, and while developers have a duty of care to keep users safe, and not overusing, this does not negate parents responsibility.

Research shows, very clearly, that too much screen-time, and not enough human interaction can lead to depression in later years. (Early teens.) Parents can miss important signs of childhood concerns, fail to give enthusiastic responses and praise to children who have achieved things they are proud of, during the day.

As we have seen, the idea of sharing the day’s events over a social mealtime, is a relatively new phenomenon. We are very lucky that we have the opportunity to share time, as a family, around the dinner table. Even doing this once or twice a week, totally ‘tech-free’ can give your child’s feelings of self-worth a huge boost; sharing mealtimes also improves vocabulary, social skills and the ability to learn the ettiequte of social dining, and conversation.

Please try to enjoy tech-free mealtimes on a regular basis. Your child, and you, will reap enormous benefits.

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