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Life Lessons: How to get your teens to stop texting at the dinner table

Young female busy reading text message
Young female busy reading text message

Dear Cheryl,

I’m no prude when it comes to technology, but I have noticed a growing trend among teens…including my own. They seem to do very little verbal communicating. The majority of their communication seems to come in the form of texting or using social media. The other night our family was out to dinner, and all of the teens at the table (as well as a few of the adults) spent the evening on their phones or tablets rather than engaging in face to face communication with the other people at the table. Not only was it annoying, I found it to be extremely rude.

What can I do to ensure that my teens establish proper communication skills? After all, in real life situations…when they go to college or get a job, they are going to have to know how to have an actual conversation with someone.

Frustrated in Charlotte

Dear Frustrated,

This is a problem that has more to do with respect and manners than the use of social media as a means of communication. Social media is, indeed, a valid means of communication. Other than in the case of an emergency, however, it has no place at a dinner table. Can you imagine bringing a land line phone to the table and having a conversation during dinner…or sitting at the dinner table writing a letter to someone? Of course not. That would be extremely rude.

Treat the issue as a matter of respect. Make it a rule that there will be no texting at the dinner table. Make it a rule that there will be no cell phones or tablets at the dinner table. If the rule is broken, the offender will lose their device for a specified amount of time. Follow through with the rule and the consequences, and your teens will soon be using proper manners at the dinner table.

Just remember one thing. If you expect your teens to put away their phones and tablets at the dinner table, you need to do the same in order for the rule to be effective.

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