Is Tech Taking Over Your Dinner Table?

24th August 2016

Posted In: WMB Living

Research published today by Dolmio® reveals that technology is a barrier to Irish family connection at mealtimes. In a world where we are more connected than ever, we are increasingly disconnected and distracted from our loved ones.

From iPads and phones at the dinner table to arguments over what Netflix show is on in the background – even mealtimes have become a tech minefield. Dolmio® believes that coming together around the table for dinner offers important emotional and functional benefits for families and commissioned the research to better understand the benefits of disconnecting to reconnect.

To combat this Dolmio® developed the ‘Pepper Hacker’, which is a bespoke pepper grinder with the technology built in to duplicate a user’s home wi-fi network to temporarily re-route internet traffic. The concept was initially a theoretical one as part of an advertising campaign but now they will produce 5,000 of them!

Busy celebrity mum-of-two and 2016 BBC Strictly Come Dancing contestant, Louise Redknapp (pictured), who invited Dolmio® into her home to share her family’s experience can certainly relate to this struggle to reclaim the dinner table: “Life at home is always crazy. Like every family, we have lots of commitments and sometimes even getting the boys in from the garden for their favourite Spaghetti Bolognese is tough! Having dinner together doesn’t happen as often as we’d like so on the nights that we can all sit together, we try to make the most of it to socialise and catch up without being glued to our gadgets.”


Tech at the Table

The Dolmio® research shows that parents’ battle technology at mealtimes on a daily basis, with an average of twelve internet connected gadgets/devices per household. Two thirds of parents (66 percent) surveyed said that technology at mealtimes has a negative impact, 38 percent of parents have tried unsuccessfully to ban tech when eating and close to half (48 percent) feel like they have no way of stopping tech at the table.


Connection at the Table

We know that mealtimes offer the perfect opportunity to talk about what’s going on in each other’s lives – this and good food are described as the ideal dinner according to 38 percent of parents surveyed by Dolmio®.  That’s reinforced by 82 per cent of parents who said that mealtimes devoid of tech were positive and 55 percent who said they saw a vast improvement with everyone around the table talking. Sharing a meal with family and friends with no tech was seen by 42 percent of parents as a much more enjoyable experience with a rare few, one percent, believing meal times are made better with technology.


Tech Tension

The Dolmio® research also found that 72 percent of family arguments at the table stem from tech. On average, 2.49 families’ dinners each week are interrupted by technology distractions and one in five (18%) say that it happens at least five nights a week.

But help is at hand… Dolmio® working with John Sharry, CEO Parents Plus Charity and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the UCD School of Psychology offers this advice to parents concerned by tech disruption at their dinnertables: “We use technology to connect with each other more than ever before – but sometimes all this online connection can lead to disconnection in real life, especially when it interrupts communication during the family meal as this research highlights. The family meal is an important centre point of family life and communication.” 

“Shared meals with family and friends are one of the best opportunities to bring us closer together. Together with Dolmio®, we have created practical solutions that I hope will help families switch off from their busy lives and help them better connect with their loved ones at the dinner table.”


John Sharry’s top five practical tips to managing tech to better protect family togetherness at the table:

1. Explain to children the importance of family meal time, sell it positively as a time to relax, share news and chat together.

2. Involve children in preparation and cooking of meals to keep them busy and involved before dinner time – with older children create a rota of who cooks, washes up etc. and plan meals that everyone enjoys.

3. Agree a simple ‘no technology’ rule, at dinner time (TV, phones and tablets all switched off). Model this rule yourself – you decide to be 100% present at mealtimes.

4. Create a good routine around family meals, fixed times and certain duration etc. Aim for one special family night a week, when the meal is followed by treats and family games etc.

5. Start small: if you currently have few family meals together, commit to just one a week. Make this fun and enjoyable and then expand to have meals on other days.