On Devices at the Dinner Table

Nick Bilton, writing for the NYT’s Bits blog:

“Conversations with each other are the way children learn to have conversations with themselves, and learn how to be alone,” said Sherry Turkle, a professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.” “Learning about solitude and being alone is the bedrock of early development, and you don’t want your kids to miss out on that because you’re pacifying them with a device.”


And they need to be able to think independently of a device. “They need to be able to explore their imagination. To be able to gather themselves and know who they are. So someday they can form a relationship with another person without a panic of being alone,” she said. “If you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll only know how to be lonely.”

It’s bad enough that adults are distracted by their smartphone or tablet at the table, but children don’t need that. Especially for children, the value needs to be instilled in them that mealtime is communal, a time to enjoy the food being served and, more importantly, the company that surrounds you. If you’re going to pull out the iPad, as Bilton’s sister did, then at least limit the time spent with it so as to redirect your child’s attention to the table.

See also, from last week: Hanna Rosin’s piece for The Atlantic on the “touch screen generation”.