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Recently, my wife and I wanted to get away from the daily grind and spend time with our children so we booked a short break at a hotel in Ras Al Khaimah. On our first night, I glanced around at our fellow diners. Of the dozen or so tables with young children, almost all of the kids were on electronic devices, such as iPads and mobile phones. I’m not talking about teens on Snapchat or tweeting friends, these were children not much older than my eldest, who is five. On quite a few of the tables, the parents were on their devices too. Now I’m no saint, I admit to occasionally giving my kids the iPad to keep them quiet. I’m also not a digital Neanderthal, I fully understand children cannot be raised in the rose-tinted days of my youth, when summers were always warm, it was safe to play in the road and the only computer in my life was the BBC Micro shared by my entire primary school. Today, tablets, phones… etc are part of children’s lives, both academically and recreationally, from before they can walk. Our children need them to develop. However, there is a time and a place for everything. At the dinner table while on a family holiday is not the time or place to catch Pokemon, check emails or post a photo of you posing in the pool with a pina colada. This is the most precious of times for a family. A time to connect, to teach your children about manners and encourage them to expand their world by trying different foods and flavours. If the waiter asks what your child would like, what is better, for you to say the usual or to encourage your kid to interact with the waiter, boosting the child’s confidence, communication skills and engaging their young brain with the world around them? And, of course, let’s not forget that studies have repeatedly linked excessive use of electronic devices with childhood obesity, behaviour problems, poor sleep and poor school performance. So parents, as hard as it might be to swallow, put the phones away at the table.
SOAPBOX Deputy Editor Simon Pluckrose urges parents and kids to turn off tech at the dinner table