This week I am celebrating and linking up with Ruth Ayers and the Celebrate Link Up that she hosts each weekend!
Every time I enter a restaurant, I see people in booths or at tables who are glued to their phones. They just don’t seem to talk to the ones they are with unless a phone is not present. Their heads go down as they study the content on their phone. Sometimes, their faces light up when they see something funny appear in their account on the phone. When people are engaged in conversations with each other at restaurants, there is typically a distinct joy on the faces of people whom I observe.
My family members and I have been guilty of scrolling through social media sites while sitting at a restaurant, but after I saw others recently at a local restaurant seemingly disengaged from their family members based on seeing very little verbal interaction between them, I decided that something needed to change. I needed to model the behavior that I wished to see. I think that I am an Effective Communicator, but I decided to really work on my verbal communication with my family and them with me. I changed my behavior and stopped looking at my Smartphone at home and in restaurants during meal times. While I was changing my habit, my school participated in some Professional Development that directly related to the topic of communication as a part of being a scholar.
In my school district, we are working toward designing personalized learning for our students. I really like a Personalized Learned Profile that was developed by teachers in my district. Recently my school’s teachers had an afternoon of PD where we analyzed the definitions of each of the descriptors on the PL Profile and had to defend which one we thought was most important. At first, I leaned toward “Creative and Critical Thinkers” as being paramount, but I am now shifting toward “Effective Communicators” as being a characteristic that must be present if a person is to be able to do anything. I have shared the definition on the PL Profile with my students and told them that we need to develop our verbal communication along with written and digital communication techniques. Here is the PL Profile:
The image above and more information about Personalized Learning in my school district can be found here: http://pl.cmslearns.org/what-is-cms-personalized-learning/
I am thrilled to have shared the Device Free Dinner Challenge, a national movement to promote talking at dinner time, not looking at a digital device, with my students during the past couple of weeks. My thought was that something needed to change in our community to promote healthy and effective communication in families. Common Sense Media has spearheaded the Device Free Dinner Challenge movement and provided directions on how it works at their website. The Challenge consists of three parts: commit as a family to put devices out of sight during dinner, have a “Device” basket to place the devices and engage in conversation with the family during dinner.
After I introduced the Challenge to my third, fourth and fifth graders, I have encouraged my students to share stories about how they have seen people using digital devices outside of school. Here are some of them:
- A child’s parent and the child were watching the child’s other sibling play ball one night recently, but the parent wasn’t watching. The parent scrolled through Facebook the whole time until the end when the parent turned to the non playing child and said, “Honey, who won?” Clearly, the parent was present but not really there.
- A child told me that at a recent 16th birthday party for her sister, a bunch of the 16 year old’s friends were on their phones and not talking. They were in the same big great room of the house, but were texting each other based on the “dings” that were heard by the child. The child went upstairs to get the family’s cat then brought the cat down to the others. The party goers put their phones down and wanted to focus on the cat. The cat made them talk.
- Many children told me that while they eat dinner, their parent or siblings are frequently on the phone looking at something such as Facebook while the family is eating. Children reported that they did not feel like the parent who was focused on the phone was not really paying attention to the child. Sometimes when the child kept trying to talk to the parent or a sibling who was preoccupied with the phone, it made the parent or sibling irritated and they responded, finally, with an aggravated comment like, “What?”
- One child told me that her mom travels a lot so they will often Face Time her while they are eating dinner at the child’s house so that the mom can “be” with the family at dinner. I think this is an appropriate way to use the digital device.
- Most students had observed people on their phones at restaurants and noticed how that the phone placed a barrier in communication between people sitting at the same booth or table.
- Several students said, “My mom/dad is constantly on Facebook. Every time we eat, s/he is looking at their phone.”
- One child told about a restaurant in another state where she visited last summer that had “Device” baskets at each table to promote conversation at the table with the actual people who were sitting there.
- Many kids expressed the idea that they like it when their parents talk to them about their day or go around the table telling one positive thing and one negative thing that happened during the day. They understand that time is limited with seeing their families and have a desire to enjoy their time together.
- A few students told me that they had already started the Device Free Dinner Challenge and they liked that the devices were put away.
- Some students told me that their parents have always had the policy of “No Devices at the Table” even before the Device Free Dinner Challenge.
I also had promoted the Device Free Dinner Challenge at my school’s Art and Cultural Fair on a Tuesday night recently while standing next to a special bulletin board that I had created about the Challenge. Parents gave me excellent feedback and thought it was a great idea. Some even told me that they already don’t allow devices at the dinner table. I handed out the Family Commitment sheet that I had copied on brightly colored sheets of paper. In more than one instance, a family member took the sheet, looked at their spouse and replied, “He/She really needs this!” and laughed. I think that people realize that it has just become the norm to have phones out at dinner time but that is probably shouldn’t be commonplace. I also shared with parents some conversation starters to share at the table to promote development of healthy relationships.
As I introduced the Challenge to each third, fourth and fifth grade class when I saw their class for Technology Special Area Class which accounts for close to 600 students at my school, I also gave each child a mini family commitment sheet from Common Sense Media to take home. They would share the Challenge with their family to let them know that they are working on being effective communicators.
I had already sent every K-5 teacher a blurb about the Challenge which they sent to every family on their email distribution list. This is what I wrote in the blurb:
Please copy and paste the following message in your weekly email to your students’ parents in your weekly email:
This message is from our Technology Teacher, Lisa Maples:
Some experts say technology has created a culture of obsession and addiction. TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones shares a look at the partnership between NBC Universal’s …
Device Free Dinner Challenge: https://d2e111jq13me73.cloudfront.net/sites/default/files/uploads/pdfs/starterkit_d1c.pdf
Common Sense Media article: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/why-device-free-dinners-are-a-healthy-choice
Research has proven that family dinner is good for kids. Hands down. How often can you take your nightly family dinner and make it one percent better than the
Family Conversation Starters for Dinner Time can be found in a free downloadable pdf at this website:
While my family and I have had dinner together at restaurants and at home in the past two weeks, we have participated in the Device Free Dinner Challenge. I have felt that we had excellent conversation and paid attention to each word even more than we had done when we allowed phones at the table. All I know is that I want to enjoy my time with my family and friends. I feel devalued and not important when any of them pay more attention to their device than to me. Children need to feel that they are valued as do adults. They are growing up in a time when everyone around them appears to be engrossed in something on the Smartphone. I want them to have my attention. They deserve it. I am celebrating today because I have been present and not distracted by technology while with my family!
Watch this video from Common Sense Media to see how the Device Basket is used to put away devices before dinner: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/devicefreedinner-dinner-at-grandmas
Have you tried the Device Free Dinner Challenge? Believe me, you will see a positive effect at the dinner table!