I have noticed that over the last several years, dinner has changed. As I look around in restaurants, and even at my own home at times, rather than talk, people are often sucked into their phones. My favorite thing to do with my children and husband is to get them off their phones by texting them to put it down.
Beyond being rude, it has curtailed meaningful discussions. More disturbing is what it is doing to American family dinners, which are significant for the development of healthy children and families. A recent study found that when moms used their cellphones at dinner, there were twenty percent fewer verbal and thirty-nine percent fewer nonverbal interactions with their children.
Research has found that the family dinner is important for helping to develop healthy behaviors. Lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, and high grade-point averages and self-esteem can all be attributed to regular family meals. Studies have also found that dinner conversation is even more important for boosting vocabulary than reading. Researchers counted the number of rare words that families used during dinner conversation. Children learned 1000 rare words compared to 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud. A large vocabulary enhances reading skills.
Unfortunately, the average American eats one in every 5 meals in the car. Twenty-five percent eat at least one fast food meal every day, and the majority of families eat a single meal together less than five days a week. When we do eat together, many are missing out on incredible opportunities to connect with each other.
It is time to plan regular meals, and put down the phone. Look at your children and connect with them. Listen to them, engage them, and the odds are you will have a healthier family, and a lot more fun. There is a term my son taught me about the feeling that Facebook often elicits. The term is FOMO or fear of missing out. When it comes to Facebook, smartphones, and the web, if you get sucked into them during family dinners, the main things you are legitimately missing out on are the most important people and interactions of your life.