Do you let your kids have technology at the table? I do.

I know children shouldn’t use devices during meals, but I break my own rule all the time.

This is what an ideal family dinner time looks like in our ‘mummy-utopia’ minds:

You’re all seated around a large table with delicious and healthy foods in the middle. The children are sitting calmly and are well-behaved. They eat some of everything. As you eat, you have interesting conversations about your day, everyone’s hopes and dreams, and you can feel the warmth and love…

In reality, dinner time is a stressful and chaotic time during which parents try and get their kids to eat the hastily-prepared meal with minimal quarreling. There is mess and food goes to waste. Parents often sit at the table dreaming of bedtime and visualising themselves watching TV while peacefully sipping a cup of tea.

So you can understand the temptation to hand kids iPods and LeapPads, just to get through a meal.

But it’s an easy way out and the danger with kids is that once you do it once, they’ll want to do it again and again and again. That means you’ve added another fight to mealtimes. They quickly expect to be able to use them, because they got them last time.

So my advice is…resist the temptation…

Professional nanny Emma Jenner, agrees, saying she sees a lot of parents using technology as a shortcut, instead of disciplining their kids and says parents should avoid doing it. She told ABC News:

I see a lot of mums, you know, I see fear in their body language, in their face. You know kids are clever, they know ‘gosh if I throw a tantrum right now then my mum’s going to give me exactly what I want.’ So that’s what they do.

But even I’ve cracked. “But Mum, I just have to finish watching this video”, or, “I’m about to beat my high score in Piano Tiles”, but as soon as the video or game is done, I snatch them away.

So sue me, I’m not perfect.

In my house, I have had to set firm rules when it comes to devices:

1. We don’t use them at home during dinner time, ever (once the videos and games are done);

Firm rules are needed when it comes to technology at the dinnertable.

2. We sometimes use them while eating out, but not until they have finished most of their meal;

3. We don't use them at restaurants that provide entertainment for the kids, like pizza dough to play with and colouring;


4. Using devices during any meal is a treat, not a rule. So don't expect it every time.

But there are also exceptions:

1. If I've had a rough day, I will let them use devices while out, just to get a few moments of peace and quiet;

2. Sometimes we are having dinner with friends, and in an effort to be able to have a conversation, find ourselves handing the kids our iPhones;

3. When we visit friends' houses for lunch and dinner, they can only use them if their friends are as well;

4. When they use devices during meals, the sound must be low and no rude words heard, even in songs.

The technology rules change when we're out.

It's not always possible to 'supernanny' your way out of situations, especially when you are exhausted and just want a few minutes of peace and quite so you can properly digest your meal. And you don't have to do it every time you are out.

Sometimes I conveniently forget to bring their devices so they have no choice but to behave and wait patiently, sometimes I bring them because I know they might be tired or in cranky moods.

I'm not a perfect parent. But as far as I am concerned, letting my children use devices occasionally while eating out isn't the end of the world.

Technology is here to stay. We may as well learn how to integrate it into our lives in as healthy a way as possible.

What are the rules in your house when it comes to technology at the dinner table? What about when you're out?

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