Dinner and TV viewing

About three-quarters of Australian families eat dinner together five or six times a week, but 60 per cent ''always or often'' eat in front of the television, according to research by Rebecca Huntley of Ipsos Mackay. (link)

I will stand up and admit that I am often one of these.  I eat in front of the TV (DVD to be accurate as we rarely watch TV - very little worth watching).  My secret is out.  Only yesterday evening my son and I watched an excellent documentary on the Amazon and Andes followed by a discussion on fish (all whilst eating our dinner)! I occasionally watch the news, but that is more likely to cause indigestion!

OK, I can hear you all say that this is bad, really bad.  And, of course it is . . . eating at the table should be the time to talk about the day without the interruptions from the TV, computer, computer games, smart phones and work.  It is an important time to interact and learn more about each other. No wonder so many families really don't know each other very well these days . . . they never set aside the time to develop meaningful relationships.  This is particularly the case with teenagers, who are more likely to be rushing here and there with after school activities, homework and friends. Some research has found that teenagers who sit down to family meals are less likely to be depressed or take risks with drugs, alcohol and sex (link) and that does make sense to me.

Sadly many families have lost the ability to eat together and enjoy a conversation and for some children . . . they never enjoyed the experience of sitting together as a family.
For most couples with children, the working day is usually spent apart, after which come school pick-ups, sport drop-offs, domestic chores.  Meanwhile, smart phones and computers bring the stresses and distractions of work into the home, and out of office hours. They also encourage habituation: checking and browsing for a ''hit'', not because the job requires it. As a result, there are very few minutes left to speak to one another without interruption or diversion. Relationships fray for lack of intimacy.

I grew up in a home without a TV, we only ate at the table (unless we were sick in bed) and I have very fond memories of those mealtimes.  I can remember many conversations (quite noisy with 3 brothers) whilst enjoying a nutritious meal that my mother had cooked.  I can remember these meals because I wasn't focused on something else and that is also very important.

I wonder how many family problems, from marriage breakups to dysfunction children can be linked to families not eating together?

TV is simply one more player in the daily competition for attention along with computers, smart phones, electronic games etc.

How true is that - especially when the sport is on.


  1. If I remember correctly, once I was old enough to wield a vegie peeler, I did tea (made same) with little instruction. It was my post school, pre-homework job...

    1. I'm sure I had to peel the potatoes! Anyway the meals were very nice from memory.

      And look at what great training it was for you :)

  2. Sad but true, Jo.
    We still eat at the table with the TV off but I know it is not the norm.

  3. People complain that homeschooled children are socially inept (or at least that's one of the stereotypes), and yet homeschooled families are probably the some of the ones most likely to sit together for a meal and talk and socialise while eating these days... Eating together as a family is a memory I treasure too - and something I didn't like about when we got older was the way the family became more dysfunctional - reading books or reading [something] while eating, instead of having conversation sometimes. I think family mealtimes (and the accompanying conversations) around the table is one of the glues that holds families together and helps unite them. Without it, families are more likely to be all off doing their own thing, hardly aware of each other's thoughts or needs.

    1. Clara - no, it doesn't need to be only TV that can interrupt a mealtime, newspapers and books can be just as bad. If you can keep the family eating and talking together as long as possible that is a huge plus.

  4. Around our parts, we are odd because we do not commit to activities, our children absent for something, or events (other than an extreme rare case) at mealtimes. We sit at the table together every single night. The rare exception is if we all go out to dinner, and yet we still sit together, or when my husband and I go out together alone.

    We eat dinner at the same time each evening, and everyone is here and present for it.

    We do own a TV, and we do a very good job of moderating what we allow in, with our parental controls, and only watching what is recorded so that we are not subjected to commercials.

    I homeschool, and we are 24 hour a day hands on parents who are almost always at home as a family. I do not feel badly about occasional TV or movies that are appropriate, because my time is completely devoted to my family. However, I don't want the TV on during dinner..we pray together at dinner, talk about our day, I will discuss any child behavior problems or great successes with my husband, etc. None of this could happen if the TV was on at that time.

    I am really astounded by the amount of families who just eat whenever they get to it..running at the common dinner hour..they simply have no foundation that compels them to be together at home for a homemade meal. No wonder parents don't know their kids.

    1. Rightthinker - that is how I was brought up and was always quite normal. We always ate dinner at the same time as my dad was a farmer and he always liked his meals at around 6pm from memory so he could go off and finish off any work that needed to be done (in particular in summer). We had our bible reading in the morning at breakfast, whilst the evening reading was done well after dinner away from the table.

      It is only now with only 1 teenager at home does dinner time various and is a little later than it use to be. And that is probably why I am a little more relaxed about dinner as there is only 3 of us. However I still cook everything from scratch as none of us like takeaways or processed foods - in fact I don't think it really matters how many you are feeding - healthy food is always important.

      Thanks for stopping by:)

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  6. Thanks for the links here, Jo. I used them on my web page in items I had written sometime back, but which the articles support very nicely.

    We almost never watch anything while we're eating, and never broadcast TV (only DVDs and such). I do sometimes watch something when I'm eating alone because it helps me not to feel so lonely; but our evening meal is as a couple (unless there is some unavoidable disruption), or as a family when we eat with my parents and/or brother and his wife, all of which live next door to us.

    My great-grandpa had a habit of bringing a book to the table and reading while he ate. I never thought much of that when my Grandma would mention it, but I think it was partly because he had no sense of taste. However, I still think he could have spent the time relating to his wife and daughter. My Grandma did not have a good relationship with him. Perhaps this habit of his contributed to that. One is apt to feel unimportant to someone who is reading at the table while eating together.

    My mom had an uncle that would listen to ballgames while eating with the family, thus disrupting the communication. This is just as bothersome.

    Watching television while eating can give the same impression, but I think it is less obvious when all parties are watching together. Of course, when someone is watching something that others don't enjoy I think it gives the "I-don't-care-about-you" feeling strongly still. It is not beneficial as these articles have pointed out. I agree that it has contributed to the disintegration of the family because communication is essential to any relationship.

    Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

    1. I think it is perfectly ok when you are alone to read or watch TV, but as a family, especially with young children it is quite a different matter. When it is just my husband and I we do like to watch a documentary together whilst eating dinner - last night it was on "Wild Wales" - which we both enjoyed and chatted about as we were watching it. But no wonder the art of conversation is dying :(

  7. Good point Jo! we have dinner together (when we are all home) which is most nights:) and my dd and I have lunch together too as I homeschool as you know:) actually quite a few days in the week we sit down for afternoon tea together too lol! Lately we've begun a 'being thankful habit' at dinner time where we each have to name one (or more) things we are thankful to God for that happened that day. it's been going really well!

  8. I know this thread is old but here goes anyway. I can't imagine my parents eating dinner in front of a TV. We ate in the kitchen because dad would have it no other way. Even today 60 years later, I eat in the kitchen with my wife. We don't watch TV at all except for DVD or streaming video. With tablets and phones one can watch streaming video almost anywhere so for me, I don't need it at mealtime or bedtime.

    1. Thanks for dropping by. My parents would never had eaten in front of the TV, ever. We hardly every watch TV unless its one of the BBC documentaries on nature or the like. We watch lots of DVDs though - I don't like advertisements anymore! I will admit, that know the children have left home I do relax in the lounge with dinner and watch a DVD or sometimes the news. In winter it is much more cosy!


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