Technology During Dinnertime? Mother Says NO! IV: Mealtime Rules, Meaning, Reflections on Technology, and Conclusion

Technology During Dinnertime? Mother Says NO! IV: Mealtime Rules, Meaning, Reflections on Technology, and Conclusion

Reflections on the Place of Technology

Participants are aware of technology’s values and how it has been incorporated in their family daily life. Some participants reported seeing technology being used at their children’s school as a learning tool, or as an instrument of the job marketing. They reported using it to keep in touch with other people, to find answers quickly, and to serve as an instrument for learning or even entertainment. Even though they allow the usage of technology in their home life, all participants reported some concerns and set limits on access to technology somehow.

Monica reflected about technology.

I am . . . It’s, it’s a fact of life that they have to use it. It’s the day and age. And, um, for instance, D.’s in JK and she gets marked on her use of technology, whether she can use a mouse, if she can, um, navigate through simple pages on an internet. Um, M., uh, who’s in grade 1, uh, she does tests through the internet, so she does reading programs and she has to send her teacher recordings of her reading and her explaining the book through the internet. So it’s that day and age, so I welcome it. (Monica, 1st interview)

Monica believed there are several benefits to technology.

Oh, there’s lots of benefits to technology, for sure. It should be used, um, for homework. We use it for homework a lot, uh, and just for discovery. And sometimes they need, it’s their way of unwinding so after like a long day of JK and they’re in the afterschool program, so they’re in a lot of noise, a lot of play, a lot of sensory. When I get them home, they just need that 30 minutes to unwind while I cook. That’s when they’ll get to their tablet and watch YouTube videos of kids playing, of toys, and that sort of way of unwinding. And I allow that because I have my way too, which is I like to look at news on the internet as my way to, uh, de-stress from work, which is weird (laughs). (Monica, 1st interview)

She also reflected on its limitations.

Um, but we also have to limit and be careful in how they’re using it, what pages they’re going on, who they’re engaging with. So that’s all stuff that we’re trying to navigate through, but still allow them to explore, to understand, um, the computer world, I guess. (Monica, 1st interview)

Monica also reflected about where and when to use technology.

There has to be a place where kids need to turn it off, uh, because they’re going to be, their life is going to be technology, even more than us. They’re going to be in it, so they need to find ways where they can get into a car and turn it off, that they can, uh, be around a table and feel comfortable in turning it off. (Monica, 1st Interview)

 Sally also talked about the pros and cons of technology in her initial reflection:

With time, my, um, opinion has shifted a little bit. I’m a little bit more critical when I hear things in the media, and I always aim for a balance, so now, I think that there is truly nothing wrong with technology. It’s how, where, and when you use it. (Sally, 1st interview)

She also reflected about its usage.

So now I teach my kids to appreciate it, to understand its value, and, um, and to know how to use it, to make choices and not to feel bombarded by it but to actually, you know, make a choice to use it. So, um, overall, the short answer of all of that is it can be an amazing tool for work, for relaxation, for enjoyment. Um, just be aware that there is so much more to the world than just that and not look at it as the enemy. (Sally, 1st interview)

 So, like I just finished saying, um, just knowing when to use it and how to use it and understanding why. (Sally, 1st interview)

Sally also described the benefits of technology.

So, yeah, there are extreme benefits but, uh, those differ completely from passively sitting there and being bombarded with, um, messages and colors and, and language that may or may not be appropriate. (Sally, 1st interview)

 She also reflected about when and where the technology should be used.

It should be used like at work. You need to use it. You have, you know, you, it has to be used as, as appropriate. But, um, even at work, I think we really need to be careful. Um, I can spend five hours in front of my computer and with wifi connected to it and all of that. I could be in and out of various things and in my mind I’m thinking I’m working but I’m being distracted by other things. So I, I think the, not only the appropriateness of use but also the mindfulness of how it’s being used. If I schedule three hours to sit on my computer and work, I have to be mindful that these are actually three hours of work and not three hours of little segments of work. Um, so that’s, I think, an important factor. (Sally, 1st interview)

 I think it remains up to us as individuals to determine for yourself what is socially appropriate for you and what is not because I have caught myself in moments that I wouldn’t allow the kids to do that and yet, you know, they might be talking to me and I’m on my phone. And, um, I berate myself for that because it’s not necessary. Just because the phone is there doesn’t make it crucial. It’s not an emergency. (Sally, 1st interview)

Allison also reflected about the value of technology.

Um, now, in, in school, they have, they can take their iPads and they can take their phones, and, and that kind of stuff. And I, I do see the value of it. I mean, I never had phones before, and I, I, you know, you can do anything, and, and I think it’s a very good tool if used properly. (Allison, 1st interview) 

She described some of the benefits of technology.

Um, I like to have a phone where I can keep in contact with them so that if they’re not home, you know, “Where are you?” Um, and they use it in school as well . . . for, um, like their iPads, they’ll take to school. So I think that’s good. (Allison, 1st interview)

Technology, and it’s good for information. Um, and I know in school, my second one is, is, uh, the college that he’ll be attending next year, they, I think they do where they, they do, um, a lot of learning, e-learning or on . . . with computers, that kind of stuff. So it, I think it, it has its, its benefits but, and, and the work too, I mean, everything is done on the computer, but there is, um, so there are the benefits there. But I still think that it doesn’t replace like, I mean, you still have a hard copy and stuff. You still have paperwork. So I think it’s, I, I think it works hand in hand but I, I don’t think it’s a total, um, replacement . . . with the way we used to do things. (Allison, 1st interview)

 And, and downtime is always good. So they, they use it more, um, I know my third one now uses it more. He’ll go and he’ll just lie down and he’ll put his headphones on and listen to music. So I think it’s good as a distraction. I think it’s good as a downtown, I think . . . A downtime. I think it’s good entertainment. And me, myself, I like to do it too, like I’ll, I’ll play a game, because it, it sort of clears the mind, and sometimes it’s good to, um, you know, to have like a, a reset and just, and then go on. So it, it’s good for that. (Allison, 1st interview)

 Allison went further and reflected about when and where it was appropriate to use technology.

 I do think there is a place for it. And, and they play games on it, and games can be educational as well, like I know they have math games and other games, and even life games where, um, I know my daughter has a game where she has a virtual family, so you have to, you know, feed and, and do this and that, so it, it does teach, um, responsibility as well. (Allison, 1st interview)

So I think, um, and in school as well. I think it, it has its place that, uh, uh, um, and, I mean, calculators, that’s part of technology. Um, that, that is, that is helpful too, but I guess they’re . . . I think maybe I’ll retract that a little because I think that, um, I’d prefer them to, to know the math and be able to do the math on their own without having to rely on that. So I think it’s good in the educational and learning, but to a point. (Allison, 1st interview)

She also reflected on its limitations.

But then again, on the other side of that, technology is good because it helps you keep in touch. So there has to be a balance. I guess the important thing is to know the balance . . . of, of the technology and, and not. (Allison, 1st interview)

Olivia reflected about the usage of technology.

Um, I think children using technology is, is a good thing. Technology is a good thing, and I think the more they use it, um, the more comfortable they will be with it. I think in the job market today, they need to be able to use technology. They need to be comfortable with it. They need to be quick at it. They need to be able to pick up new things on it. (Olivia, 1st interview)

 Olivia described several benefits to technology.

Um, hm. Well, the benefits of technology I get my work done a whole lot faster on the computer than I used to do when I was young and I had a typewriter. Um, my kids get their homework, uh, much more quickly. They love to spellcheck. Their, their spelling is horrendous . . . but I . . . that’s a losing battle because they all have spellcheck. Um, those are, those are great benefits. Like, um, my, my, my two boys are interviewing for jobs now and sending out resumes. It’s much quicker . . . than I did it way back when. Um, they’re . . . Papers. (Olivia, 1st interview)

So much to do. Um, they . . . some of . . . Well, for jobs, um, they’re learning . . . my one son is learning how to code online because the jobs are in the technology department, so he can even learn about technology using technology. I’ve done higher education. I’ve taken classes online that I needed to, to boost my qualifications for my job. (Olivia, 1st interview)

 Um, my kids have done exter – My daughter got her boating license online. She . . . The kids have done . . . they’ve practiced for their driving license online. All . . . it’s, it’s certainly helped our, our lives. It’s, it’s made, um, saved on gas. Um, and it’s, it’s . . . They’ve, they have a lot of fun playing games together. (Olivia, 1st interview)

 Olivia reflected on technology limitations.

Um, do think that it can be overused, especially with children. I I think tha- they can spend too much times on games, or too much time on the internet. I don’t think that internet usage should be unsupervised because there is everything in the world on the internet. But as long as it’s supervised and it’s used in moderation, um, then I, I think it’s a great thing. I think it’s a gift. (Olivia, 1st interview)

 Um, they, the games have been great used in moderation. (Olivia, 1st interview)

I, I think we need to use, um, the manners that, that we use in face-to-face contact with our phones and with our texting and with our gameplaying and, and with our computers. And I think we need to, to be polite and think about the people around us and not disturb others or make people wait for us to finish our conversations, um, before we will give our attention to them. (Olivia, 1st interview)

Olivia also reported her thoughts about when and where technology should be used.

I do think there’s a time and a place for it and I think, as in almost everything in life, it needs to be in moderation. We take the good and we throw out or moderate the bad, and we use it to help us and to help our families and to help our relationships. But when it interferes with our relationships or our family life, or our own health and wellbeing, then we need to change it. (Olivia, 1st interview)

 Brie reflected about the benefits of technology.

Benefits of technology. I I think it just um provides access to information um, a lot of creative ways that information is presented especially when you look at kids’ programs. I mean, for example like my daughter is learning her times table and she uses a times table game. It’s it’s great because you know, it’s not rote. It’s not boring. She’s having fun and she’s learning how to do the time table quickly. She’s being challenged so, it’s a fun thing and she’s learning at the same time. (Brie, 1st interview)

 You know, they can go anywhere and have access to the information that they need. (Brie, 1st interview)

They could learn new skills. (Brie, 1st interview)

 Although Brie described the benefits of technology, she too also reflected upon its limitations.

Um, I think it’s good if it’s monitored uh, for content. Uh what’s accessible on the internet. Meaning, m make sure that the material that they’re receiving is is positive and um also limiting time so it’s not too much time. (Brie, 1st interview)

But I think also being aware of what the kids are accessing. On the internet with the personal devices is is important. Um, because you know advertisement may come in that’s not good and yeah. I I think it as long as that is in the equation of being careful then. (Brie, 1st interview)

How they See Themselves

Participants were asked to reflect on what kind of families are requesting no technology during mealtime, and their responses centred upon the importance of relationships within the family. Some examples of their thoughts follow below:

Monica:

I think the families that are requesting no technology are the families that are fighting for uh, fighting for their uh family, you know? For the tight bond, to understand their children. Um, take a moment for that one time because you know as soon as you get up from the table everybody’s doing their one thing even though you’re in the same house. (Monica, 2nd interview)

Allison:

that they want to make sure their kids are grounded and they want to make sure that they have the right tools to succeed and you can only do that if you’re with your child. Like you have to be there consciously. (Allison, 2nd interview)

 And I think that the families realize that, who realize that they need to put that time in, I think that those are the ones that-that make the time. (Allison, 2nd interview)

 Olivia:

I think families that, that value their relationships between each other and, um, again, the support that we can offer each other. (Olivia, 2nd interview)

 Brie:

Um, I think (sighs), mm-hmm (affirmative) . . . I think families that are probably have both parents in the house and families that maybe they value, they value the, um, relationships. Um, they’re probably more levelheaded as to knowledge in their life, between family and career activities and whatever else is going on that we could busy ourselves with, so, yeah, I think families that have a, a, a, a, a value on relationship and on family would be . . . Those would be the ones that would, um, insist on making sure that there is this time to connect and bond. (Brie, 2nd interview)

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About the Author

Camilla MoreiraCamilla was born in Brazil and came to Canada with a degree in Psychology from the Catholic University of Pernambuco (UNICAP). She obtained her Master of Psychology from Adler Graduate Professional School. Camilla is a registered psychotherapist with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO), and a member of the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists (OACCPP) as well as the Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy (CAPT). She has Level I, II, III certifications in play therapy as well as in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Camilla has experience in providing individual therapeutic services to children, youth and adults diagnosed with depression, behavioural problems, and anxiety (GAD, PTSD, separation anxiety, fears, phobia, and OCD). Her passions include spending time with her family, traveling, reading, children, and the ocean.

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