Children's advocacy group Common Sense Media has launched a PSA campaign to convince families to declare the family dinner table a no-mobile-device zone.
Common Sense is launching its #DeviceFreeDinner campaign during the early days of the Summer Olympics with a series of short public service announcements that will be carried throughout the NBC Universal TV network.
"Our devices keep us connected, informed and engaged, but dinner time is an important time to just say 'no,'" said Common Sense founder and CEO James P. Steyer in a news release Friday. "Everything from better grades to a healthier lifestyle has been linked to eating together regularly as a family. By taking the Device-Free Dinner Challenge, families will gain important family time and set an example for kids that we all need to carve out face-to-face conversation time in our lives."
The advocacy group said that digital devices like smartphones can "undermine family connection."
And it said its polling "finds that 70 percent of families have dinner together five or more times a week and almost all (93 percent) parents think conversations during family dinners are important for talking about things happening in their children's lives."
The poll found that two-thirds of families don't allow mobile devices at the dinner time, but still, nearly half said a family member did use a mobile device at dinner in the past week. One in five parents said they keep their phones someplace where it can be seen during dinner.
In 2011, the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a study showing that when families eat dinner together most of the time, the children are significantly less likely to do drugs, abuse alcohol or smoke.
"Parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children," said Joseph A. Califano Jr., founder and chairman of the center, in a statement that accompanied the CASA Columbia report.
A Deseret News article at the time on the study noted a number of benefits for families that have dinner together. Besides creating closer relationships with parents and children, it also forges stronger bonds between siblings. According to the article, "the annual study found that teens who believe their older siblings have tried an illegal drug are: More than five-and-a-half times likelier to use tobacco. Almost three times likelier to use alcohol. Six-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana. And more than three times likelier to expect to try drugs to get high, including marijuana and prescription drugs that were not prescribed for them.
The Common Sense PSAs draw a humorous connection between dinner distractions and the Olympics, as athletes become distracted during competition. The idea is that some things should be device free. Including family dinner.
Families are being invited to visit the campaign online and join the challenge. Teachers and others will also find resources there. The second phase of the campaign will launch in fall with a holiday-specific pledge and New Year's resolution piece.
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