With the onset of December, we’re likely all ready to treat ourselves to a big Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, and perhaps a festive tipple of three. But a recent study suggests ‘tis not the season to text at the table – and that we’d all be much happier if we were to ditch checking our phones while we eat and just concentrated on the friends and family around us instead.
The study into British family eating habits revealed a disconnect in what we want from our festive get-togethers, and what we often actually end up doing. When asked where they enjoyed eating the most, one in three chose a traditional Christmas lunch around the dinner table – and 70% go on to say that they think family relationships are positively affected by a traditional Christmas meal, with family get-togethers providing a fantastic opportunity for younger children in particular to improve their table manners and learn the art of conversation over their meals.
Despite this, the survey of more than 2,000 UK residents commissioned by furniture retailer Furniture Village suggested that what we know in theory, is hardly ever practised. The majority of UK families (41%) admitted to settling the kids in front of TV while they ate, or not even inviting them to the table, with a further 42% admitting that smartphones and other portable tech made it to the dinner table with them, interfering with the festive fun as Instagram and email checking became more important than quality time over the meal.
Commenting on this trend, family therapist Dr Renee Singh says: “Sitting around a dining table without digital distractions can provide an opportunity for the whole family to talk and engage. Children can learn good table manners and the art of having a conversation whilst eating their Christmas meal and can also develop an appreciation for good food.”
So with that in mind, if you don’t want tech to take over the Christmas dinner tradition, here’s what to do:
- Keep the television turned off: It can be a bit daunting to have the entire extended family around the table for Christmas, but simply snapping Christmas telly on and passing around the Quality Street does nothing to dispel it! Festive songs over the speakers, or activities such as cracker-pulling, are much better ways of getting everyone to engage and counteracts any atmosphere.
- Ban phones from the table: This might sound like a tough one, particularly for any teens around the family table, but the benefits are worth it! Ask your guests to put phones into a ‘time-out zone’ before they sit down to dinner, so that there’s no digital distraction to ruin the festive chats and bonding. As well, parents need to model appropriate behavior (it’s bad manners to text at the table), so there’s no point insisting your children can’t use tech if you’re posting a social media status at the same time.
- Promote festive fun: Festive activities are perfect for opening conversation, engaging everyone of all ages, and take everyone’s minds off their missing mobiles. Sing that song, pull that cracker and play that game of ‘Guess Who?’ – and you just might find that nobody is missing tech much at all.