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.

 

If we bring our mobile device to the dinner table we have guidelines - and a purpose.

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.

[Tweet “Surprise your kids: ask them to bring their device to the table and shake up family time!”]

 

Do you need help in your Family?

Hi! I’m Belinda

About Me

Belinda and her husband, Peter, live in the far north-west of Australia on a small farm. They have four adult children whom they homeschooled from prep-year 12. Over this time Belinda has taught and supported women both face to face and online. Her heart is to encourage families to be intentional, relational and heart focused in all areas of family living. She continues to do this in her new season of life – as her kids leave home one by one leaving her with more time.

Certified Life Coach

Over to you:

How have you made the best of technology in your family?

26 Comments

  1. Kela Nellums (@Kela__Nellums)

    This is so great and we’ve used devices at our dinner table for those reasons also! Especially when we’re sharing photos….or taking photos! LOL

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Hi Kela – nice to hear from you. Oh yes – taking photos!!! We probably take way too many of t hose. LOL. I think this idea is really important for families, especially with older kids, to move on and see the issue of technology objectively.

      Reply
  2. Kanina

    Fantastic article.
    Thanks B

    Reply
  3. Bonnie Lyn Smith

    I really appreciate this article! I think your boundaries are so healthy. We can’t fight technology, but we can be creative to use it for good. I have teens and tweens, and I don’t bring it to the table often, but when we do, it is engaging among all of us. And yes, so good that it never becomes more important than those in the room. Loved this: “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.” Well done! Pinning, tweeting, and sharing! Coming to you from #EspressosofFaith via #CoffeeandConversation!

    Reply
  4. Rebecca

    Great spin on using technology to bring the family closer instead of each person being in their own worl. Thanks for sharing. Visiting from Fellowship Friday.

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Thanks for dropping by Rebecca. Yes, we must use what we have in our hand!

      Reply
  5. sixlittlehearts

    I love to research a topic on my phone on occasion too – I like the handy facts from the Google Gods!

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Yesterday as someone quickly checked a definition for a word that had come up in conversation, I thought how much our world has changed with information so readily at our fingers. Thanks for dropping by – have a good week!

      Reply
  6. Kylie Purtell - A Study in Contradictions

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve often wondered what it’s like for parents of older children when it comes to devices, as my girls are only 2 and 3 so I am pretty much ruler when it comes to devices and they have no choice. My biggest challenge is trying to model responsible use to them and getting my husband on the same page. He is a shocker with his bloody online games that he plays on his mobile, I almost have to set down some rules for him!

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Haha Kylie – I know the feeling. Pete often has business calls at dinner time and it can be frustrating but something we’ve had to come to terms with.

      Reply
  7. Ness

    Interesting idea. My boys would probably want to talk about sport and gaming, but as long as we’re sitting together sharing a meal, I guess that would be okay.

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      I guess everyone has their hobbies / hobby-horses so it is really about learning how to let everyone share and be involved in the conversation – and that includes mum!! Thanks for dropping by.

      Reply
  8. toniazemek

    Love your comment about books and folk reading newspapers….the more we change, the more we stay the same hey? Lovely to discover your blog via Multitasking Mummy today. Great, thought-provoking post.

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      yes, we are just recycled for the next generation!! LOL. I always chuckle when my teens think they have discovered something new – and it is pretty much the same as 20 years ago!

      Reply
  9. Elisha

    I like your way of thinking as I bet it creates the littlest of arguments with teens. I like to apply the same principles to my teaching as well. Technology is here to stay so we may as well make the most of it in the best positive light we can. I think I need to do better with switching off more when I’m with the kids though. Set a better example so ill follow some of those tips. Thanks

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Thanks for leaving a comment. Like I said, we don’t do this all the time, but when it is useful and purposeful – it is a great addition to our family time. I think a big key for dealing with teens is to enter their world with some positives rather than always critical.

      Reply
  10. Mrs Tubbs

    Clever way of setting boundaries whilst acknowledging the new normal. Definitely pinching this, thank you

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      I like that – the new normal. Technology certainly falls into that definition. thanks.

      Reply
  11. Mumma McD

    These are actually great guidelines and I can see how they’d work for a family with okder kids (mine are 2 and 3 – we’re not quite ready haha!!).
    #TeamMM

    Reply
  12. Forever Joyful

    I love this! I am a big fan of encouraging kids to use electronics to create (digital art, photos, programming) versus consume (movies, etc.). It sounds like you use yours to build relationships. Perfect!

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Yes I love the creativity that digital technology is giving our kids. It has been an important part of our education though there is always so much more to learn. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you continue to enjoy what you read here.

      Reply
  13. Dawn Boyer

    I appreciate the heart of this message which echoes 1 Thes 5:21, ‘Take the good part’ ( and my add on) and leave the bad out. I think we need to be able to allow our kids to see us open and available to the good things that progress brings while openly recognizing how we can let too much be destructive. I enjoyed this, thank you!
    Blessings,
    Dawn

    Reply
    • Belinda Letchford

      Thanks Dawn – that is a great verse for us parents to think on isn’t it.

      Reply
  14. Elizabeth

    Hi! Visiting from Mom’s Morning Coffee! This is a great article and I appreciated your perspective. I run two businesses from home, and I’m afraid that I’m the one often messaging someone at the dinner table these days! LOL! I also have mostly teens and adults these days, so there are a lot of devices being used. I liked your guidelines and ideas for using technology to increase engagement! Thanks for sharing! 😉

    Reply
  15. Sammy

    I really liked that you specified the technology could be used if it contributed to the conversations/family time. Especially because shutting the door on technology is something I see a lot of parents doing, instead of learning from their children/younger family members and embracing it, too. Love this post.

    Reply

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  2. Coffee and Conversation Link Party #50 - - […] at Live Life With Your Kids, piqued my curiosity and helped me consider “tech at the table” in a different […]

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