“The dinner table… is practically dead.”

The dinner table, an idealised space where families come together to enjoy each other’s company over a warm meal, to connect and converse, is practically dead. Bowles and Turnbull (2015) talk about the mother’s role in the home as the moderator of her children’s contact with technology and say that with the advent of portable technologies, it is becoming harder for her to track the whereabouts of her children. This is especially true if we take into consideration that when people are on their devices, they are not in fact present in the room, physically maybe, but mentally they are in the world of cyberspace.

Frendo (2013) talks about technology and says that with its becoming more mobile, it has infiltrated the dinner table, making it easy for parent and child alike to become distracted from the company of the other. She goes on to say that technology disrupts the moments of connection when we are together and that we should develop a balance and limit when we use technology (Frendo 2013). Frendo (2013) offers the solution of placing our respective technologies in a basket before sitting down for dinner. “Regular conversation, eye contact, and laughter strengthen our brain’s capacity for human connection – but those things can be difficult when distracted by the allure of technology (Fredo 2013).”

But what about those who eat dinner standing up? For Macdonald (2013), “the family dinner is an archaic ritual that’s almost dead and buried. In fact it exists almost entirely in fantasyland.” Macdonald (2013) says that when she insists her family sit together it rarely works as her son gags at the sight of vegetables while her daughter, regularly disappears beneath the table to feed the bottomless pit known as, the family dog. Macdonald (2013) believes that when the family dinner is set up because it is the proper thing to do it becomes artificial and a chore, in contrast, she believes that family dinners are respected more when they are occur during rituals, because they are the rare occasions where the family mutually comes together, such as for birthdays or Christmas.

Macdonald (2013) goes on to say that the best conversations you have with your children are at the times when they don’t feel it is an inquisition, such as when you are grilling them at the dinner table. For her, the modern family dinner involves watching the TV while eating, using this space as a site for developing ideas and insight, hosting discussions about the show and the various themes it employs (Macdonald 2013).

The family dinner at the dining table is an outdated institution that I believe a majority of families forgo for the now, arguably intimate, TV dinner. As a space, the dining table feels more appropriate for a formal setting rather than an everyday site for the engagement of family, which is where the informal and comfortable space known as the lounge room excels.

Resources:

Bowles, K, Turnbull, S 2015, BCM240 – Media, Audience, Place 8: Regulating Audiences, Echo360, viewed 26 September 2015, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/blocks/echo360_echocenter/echocenter_frame.php?id=6402

Frendo, M 2013, Plugged in or Tuned Out: Technology at the Dinner Table, Michigan State University Extension, viewed 26 September 2015, http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/plugged_in_or_tuned_out_technology_at_the_dinner_table

Macdonald, S 2013, ‘The death of the family dinner,’ Daily Life, 4 June, viewed 26 September 2015, http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/the-death-of-the-family-dinner-20130603-2nlrx.html

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