What does dinnertime look like in your house? Do you all sit around the table and chat about your day, or are you all on the sofa, plates perched on your laps, as you eat?
If the second scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. More of us are living busier lives, largely thanks to smartphones increasing connectivity and many of us working longer hours.
We believe the dining table is an important feature of any household. As well as providing a space for homework and crafts, families can also sit together and enjoy a meal or discussion around them. With so many of us distracted by technology these days, we believe meal times at the dining table are a good opportunity for the family to bond and share stories from the day.
With many finding it difficult to come together as a family for dinner, Heal’s wanted to look at what’s happening at mealtimes and explore the significance of the dining table in the modern home. Does having a table make a difference to relationships? Can something so simple bring a family together? Here’s what we found.
All Together Now
It seems many of us think it’s important to share mealtimes together yet it is still a contentious topic within families. In fact, one-third of families are getting into disagreements about not sitting at the dining table each night.
Women would prefer more time together with their partner at dinnertime, with 38% feeling unhappy if their partners opt to sit elsewhere, and those in the 35-to-44 age bracket are especially frustrated.
Attitudes to sharing mealtimes vary from city to city, too, with Mancunians being the most likely to be around the table for dinner. Manchester is one of the strictest cities when it comes to sitting down together, with over half of residents (51%) choosing to do so.
Interestingly, London was second on the list (44%). As the busy capital where everything is fast-paced, it’s heartening to see so many families taking the time to share a meal.
While many of us are trying to get everyone to sit together at mealtimes, there’s one major factor that seems to be building barriers to helping families do this: the mobile phone. We seem to be a nation of phone addicts, with almost one-third of us (32%) using them at the table and over a quarter (28%) admitting to not switching off their mobile at mealtimes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s younger people that find it the hardest to switch off during dinnertime, with 46% of 25 to 34-year-olds being the worst for using their phones at the table, closely followed by the 18 to 24-year-olds (44%). This drops significantly to 29% for the 35 to 44-year-olds, however, this is the age group who struggle the most with being away from their phone during dinner.
Of those asked, more women than men find it harder to leave their mobile. Over half (54%) think it’s difficult to keep it away from the dining table.
In addition, if you happen to be in Manchester and you can’t resist bringing your phone with you to the table, you’re not alone. This was the worst city (44%) for keeping the mobile next to the dinner plate at mealtimes.
It’s not all black and white
As well as lots of us struggling to keep our mobiles away while we eat, there’s some deceptive behaviour among parents when it comes to who’s allowed their phones at the table. Of those asked, 11% admitted to checking their phones mid-bite, even though their children aren’t allowed to. Fathers are the biggest culprits, with 13% banning mobiles at mealtime but hanging on to their own anyway.
Parents in the 25 to 34 age group are the most likely to do this, while those in the 55-to-64 age bracket are the strictest, imposing a blanket ban on phones at the dining table. Overall, however, almost a quarter (24%) allow children to keep their mobile with them.
Should you be a child or young adult in Bristol, you’re least likely to be able to combine sending to your WhatsApp group with dinner as 72% of parents don’t allow it. And if you’re in Belfast, your parents are the biggest culprits. A quarter use their own phones while not allowing the kids to do the same.
As more of our time is taken up by our phones, it seems we’re less likely to sit down together and enjoy a meal as a family. Perhaps it’s time to turn off our devices, enjoy each other’s company, and bring back the dinner table.