Most families 'DON'T have screen free dinners anymore', parents say

LESS than a quarter of families sit down for a ‘screen-free’ dinner together every day away from TVs, phones and devices, according to research.

A study of 1,600 parents with a least one child at home found six in 10 (61 per cent) admit getting children to switch off their devices is the biggest cause of disagreements in their household – leading to an average of two disputes a day.

The research also found it takes almost 10 minutes for a child to switch off their devices after being asked.

As a result, 53 per cent of parents have bribed their child to put their device away, with the most common including ‘you can have a snack’, ‘you can stay up later’ and ‘I’ll pay you’.

More than half (55 per cent) have also imposed rules on screen time, including no devices after a certain time, no phones at the dinner table and not allowing their child to take a mobile phone to school.

The research was commissioned to mark the launch of Vodafone Pro Broadband with Alexa, featuring an exclusive ‘Dinnertime’ skill which allows families to activate 30 minutes of digital downtime.

Almost all (94 per cent) parents feel having a break from technology is important for family relationships.

While 86 per cent think dinner time is an important part of the day for spending quality time together.

It also emerged that 83 per cent would like to have more time away from screens as a family.

However, despite this, 93 per cent of parents believe technology is important for a child’s development – with 98 per cent using digital devices to aid their learning.

Dr Anna Colton, clinical child psychologist, commented: “Technology plays a huge part in all of our lives, and facilitates our work, learning and leisure.

"It also enables us to connect with friends, family, and those we may otherwise be unable to reach. However, it’s important to remember to take daily digital downtime – both for ourselves and for our relationships with loved ones, to nurture relationships. 

“30 minutes is the optimum amount of time for families to reconnect with one another away from screens because it’s long enough to have meaningful conversations, a meal or play a game but not so long that it feels worrying, forced or stressful.

“Having time without devices is vital for everyone. Relationships need to be built and nurtured and this requires actual, face to face time, whether eating a meal together, playing games, reading stories, just chatting.

"Children learn how to be, behave and relate by watching others and interacting with them.”

The research also found 62 per cent of parents have been caught out for breaking their own rules.

While three-quarters (77 per cent) said their children don’t always abide by these either, according to the research carried out via OnePoll.

Max Taylor, consumer director at Vodafone UK, said: “Technology is amazing in so many ways, not least in its ability to connect us to those we love. 

“But it is also important to take time away from our screens and connect with family and friends face to face, particularly at mealtimes.”

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