by Camilla Moreira, MPsy
This series was originally completed as a Major Research Project in partial fulfillment of Adler Graduate Professional School’s Master of Psychology degree.
With the advance of technology in our daily routine, it is apparent that the interaction among people has been changed significantly. Some families resisted the use of technology during mealtime, and this research explored those women’s perceptions about how not allowing the use of technology during mealtime benefits the family relationship. Qualitative methods were selected to conduct this research. Attachment theory provided the theoretical framework for this research. Phenomenology was selected as the most appropriate approach, as the objective of this research was to investigate different ways in which parents experienced not having technology during mealtimes. Once data were collected and when interviews appeared to be saturated, the researcher developed a framework to better understand their reasons and beliefs in a way to understand parental perception on the family dynamic.
Reasons for Not Allowing Technology During Mealtime
The research shows that participants have similar beliefs in their reasons for disallowing technology during mealtime. Among the answers, participants revealed that the reasons for not using technology during mealtime are clustered around themes and goals including the following:
- to increase communication,
- to promote special moments,
- to develop healthy eating habits,
- to engage and bond,
- to promote safety,
- to learn and share,
- to teach social skills,
- to educate about table manners,
- to parent, and
- to share.
Each of these 10 reasons for disallowing technology during mealtime is discussed in more detail bellow.
All participants reported that one of the reasons they disallow technology during mealtime is that it increases communication. They reported that mealtime provides them with the opportunity to have reciprocal conversations about different topics. Mothers described that mealtime allows the family to debate, converse, open up, have fun, disclose personal stories, and reflect. Mealtime is an environment where conversations flow naturally.
Monica described in detail how disallowing technology during mealtime contributed to increased communication between her family members. In Monica’s words:
It’s the only time where we’re around the table where we can talk, laugh, tell stories, um, joke, uh, and just kind of have that special moment, that quiet moment between all of us while we’re eating. (Monica, 1st interview)
In her perspective, she observed that her children were feeling comfortable enough at mealtime to disclose personal things and to discuss difficult topics with no shame, embarrassment or, worry.
They feel more open to ask questions even if they could be negative or, it, it becomes a sanctuary around the table . . . where you can ask anything and it, it’s not frowned upon. It’s where we discuss it. So, for example, M. heard swear words, so she felt comfortable at the table to say, “Mommy, I heard this word today. I know it’s bad but what does it mean?” And I’ll say, “Okay, what’s the word? It’s safe around here.” So she, so we have that discussion. (Monica, 1st interview)
For Monica, it is during the mealtime that the communication occurs naturally and smoothly among her family members.
When you’re around the table, it seems that um conversation with the whole family seems to happen more fluidly, where the kids might express something that heard, um or uh you know tell a joke, or uh it’s a, I guess a time when we’re looking at each other. We’re present, um and it’s easier to communicate with each other instead of individually. (Monica, 2nd interview)
Sally observed that mealtime led to an increase in communication between family members as there were no distractions around.
Things to talk about right? We’re just sitting there. Like I said, there’s no other entertainment and so we start talking about things and communication increases closeness so yeah. (Sally, 2nd interview)
For Allison, mealtime is a time where the family gets together to discuss different topics. During that time, her perception was that her family members had no interest in playing with technology; they saw it as a time for talking.
I think when we have dinner, they’ll all come and they’ll sit, and we’ll just talk about whatever, and they just, they just don’t take it out and, and play or whatever. Um, they’ll do that afterwards. (Allison, 1st interview)
Allison also described that during mealtime, her family members prefer to engage in conversation among them.
I think that they’d rather talk to one another . . . than do something on their phone. (Allison, 1st interview)
Olivia reported that her family members were full of energy at mealtime and they would engage in communication for long periods of time. She expressed talking different and dense subjects during this time of the day.
We have lively fun dinners that sometimes can go on for an hour or more when . . . now that my kids are older and we talk about more in-depth. We debate politics. We debate things in the bible. We, we have good, good solid conversations. (Olivia, 1st interview)
Brie believed that when technology is not around during mealtimes, communication grows because the family can engage in conversations.
We’re able to talk. (Brie, 1st interview)