Many families like to have a technology free time especially around the dinner table, but there have been times that we’ve brought our devices to the table .  And though it goes against what most people say, let me share why and how it has worked out.

But first, I’d like to make some provisos:

  • Our children are teens/adults
  • We have already established the habit of talking and engaging with each other at this time of the day – it is a priority to all of us
  • We don’t engage with anyone who is not in the room (no social media)
  • We only use our device if it supports or enhances what we are doing as a group

This last point is significant.

We only use our digital technology

if it supports or enhances what we are doing as a group.

Technology used this way is a tool – it is much like bringing a book to the table, an article we have snipped from a newspaper or a letter we received in the mail.  All of these things, done in the day, would be seen as bringing something to share – information just looks different today.

We have used technology at the table to:

  • Read aloud an article, or a snippet from a book we are reading, that we wish to discuss together
  • Find information on a topic we are talking about but don’t really know much about (a specific Bible verse, a social situation, current events, or general knowledge)
  • See a map in connection with something we are talking about
  • Pick a topic to talk about (Google search toastmaster topics)
  • Share photos we have taken, this often means laughing together
  • Brainstorm ideas, problem solving (Pinterest is a favourite for this)
  • Update our calendars and plan family time (we all have digital calendars now)
  • Learn from each other
  • Check out movie reviews for movies and discuss the pros and cons of seeing it

There have been a few times that we have also played games together – The Rory Story Cubes app was a lot of fun.  This article talks about this idea of bringing devices to the table, and playing a word game.  I’ve earmarked this for a future family night!  The standout to me in reading this article was that though the photo looks like everyone is focused on their device, the reality is there’s a lot of verbal play going on, and I know from our own family experiences, a lot of fun memories were being made.

Here’s another list of 5 app-games that you can use to connect with your family – maybe around the dinner table, maybe not.

As a society, we have been in this place with technology before.  Televisions, Videos, DVDs – have all challenged family times, and we have learnt to use it to a level where we feel it is beneficial.  To be honest, I’d love to know what people thought the impact of books would have on the family when they first became more available. Somewhere in my internet reading I have seen an old photo of everyone on the train reading the newspaper and not seeing the people around them; we think technology has brought this social phenomenon but really, it has been around for a long time!
The key with any technology in our family – be it a book (yes, a book!), TV, DVD, Computer games, mobile devices – is that we have to be in control of it, and not let it dictate our family life.

There are two guidelines we have in our home

  1. At no time is any screen interaction (or book, magazine or newspaper) more important than a person in the same room. This doesn’t mean we don’t engage with technology when there is another person in the room, but it does mean we are available to the other person, and the minimum is courtesy.
  2. As parents of the house, we set the boundaries and expectations. The best way to do this is to be aware of the context and don’t make solid never to be changed rules.  Family life changes and grows.  New things come into our lives all the time.  We need to be flexible, but always have our eyes on our purpose and the best way to achieve those purposes.

So if your kids are older this may be a new dimension you can bring into your family life.  We don’t do it every night, neither would I recommend that the devices are used every night.  But it is an option we have and do use.

 

Surprise your kids and get them to bring their device to the table - read how this worked out for us.

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