Technology During Dinnertime? Mother Says NO! I: Introduction, Lit Review, and Methodology
Technology is everywhere these days and, as a result, technology devices influence family life all the time. This “technology interference” defined by McDaniel and Coyne (2016) reflects everyday intrusions and interruptions in couples and family interaction. The current paper included a literature review that examined the technology interference on family members during mealtime. Initially, data were collected explaining how family members currently use their devices. In addition, a review of attachment theory as a background to explain the importance of parent and children relationship was considered, and then the ways in which the use of technology might interfere with the family relationship were outlined.
Last, a brief look at the technology use during family mealtimes was explored.
Research for the literature review was accessed by searching databases accessible by EBSCO service provider. The databases that were searched included PsycTESTS, PsycINFO, PubMed, and Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Search terms that were used included: technology, media, electronic media, screen time, screen device, distraction and/or impediment to family engagement, attachment, attachment theory, attachment style and relationship, parenting style, social bonding, social relationship, family relation, emotional closeness, mealtime, dinner table, dinner time, eating habits and/or behavior, family meals, and other similar terms.
Technologies Used by Family Members
The increase in screen time use and the potential impacts of it on people’s lives has been evident lately. Anderson (2015) indicated that 92% of U.S. adults owned a cell phone, including smartphones; 78% of adults below 30 years of age possessed a laptop or desktop computer, and 45% of Americans purchased a tablet computer. Middleton (2007) reported an “always on” condition, which is visible among all age populations. Rainie and Zickhur (2015) state that about 90% of American adults frequently have their phones with them, and 76% of them informed that they never or rarely turn their devices off. Katz and Aakhus (2002) suggested that this creates a feeling of “perpetual contact” among others. Those individuals are forming strong attachments with their various technologies.
Screen time is also present in youth lives. Studies show evidence among youth that demonstrates that they are spending “3 to 4 hours per weekday on various screen-related activities, which increased based on temporality of weekends, social gatherings, and school breaks” (Minges et al., 2015, p. 390). Hill et al. (2016) reported that often, children and toddlers are seen playing with electronic devices. They notice a trend generating some controversial states around the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) because, even though it generates ideas around the educational potential, it is also a concern with overuse during a crucial period of rapid brain development. Given the health concerns around the excessive use of digital media in children 2 to 5 years, they noticed that the American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) recommends no more than 1 hour per day to permit time to participate in other activities essential for their health and development, as well as to reduce risk of obesity in the future.
Attachment Theory and the Importance of the Parent-Child Relationship
Attachment theory originates from John Bowlby’s work, where he explored the importance of children’s relationships with their primary caregivers, specially around early infants’ separations. His observations around children’s deep distress when separated from their mothers were fundamental to form his theory. To Bowlby, “attachment is an emotional tie that an infant constructs and elaborates with his principal caregiver(s) in the context of everyday interaction” (Benson & Haith, 2010, p. 31); it also refers to a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). A good attachment relationship represents a child’s expectation of her or his primary caregiver around availability and responsiveness. In other words, a secure attachment is significantly correlated with maternal sensitivity, availability, and attentiveness.
A crucial parental role, therefore, is to facilitate children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Through this relationship, children will learn about understanding the world, regulation, and appropriate emotional knowledge (Havighurst, Wilson, Harley, Prior, & Kehoe, 2010). Baumrind (1966, 1968) expressed that dimensions of parental warmth and control are fundamental to promote best children’s outcome. Maccoby and Martin, (1983) explained that lack of parental participation in infant activity is associated with a disruption in their attachment.