Screen time at meal time

Before Sophie was a toddler, I would look at parents whose kids were glued to the iPad or DVD players while eating and thought to myself that I will NEVER be that kind of parent. The kind of parent who would readily dish out my mobile device just to keep the kiddo quiet at meal times. So often I see the kids with their eyes glued to the screen that their parents would have to feed them even though they are perfectly capable of doing.

That would never happen to me, I thought.

Turns out that I was not much different.

In fact, I turned out to be THAT mum and Sophie started young too.

I became the mum who gives in to my child’s incessant demand for my handphone or iPad just so that I can eat in peace. It doesn’t help, that I’m always snapping pictures of my food before I eat, so naturally once Sophie sees my handphone, she’ll ask for it. Someday she will sneakily ask to see the picture that I’ve taken then conveniently forgot to return my handphone and play with it.

In my defense, I’ll tell you that she’s mostly playing with educational apps. Apps that help her to practice her writing, perhaps some coloring skills, counting and of course Mandarin. And if she’s watching a show, it’s likely to be an educational one like Super Why.

Now, I know what you’re thinking because which mum does that especially when there are researches and studies which shows that kids who do not engage in conversations at meal time and are playing on the mobile devices turn out to be anti-social, lacking in EQ, social etiquette, rude, inconsiderate and all that jazz.

Change of strategy

So recently, instead giving to her request for my mobile phone, I’ve been keeping her busy with my new bag of tricks. One where I’ve packed books, card games and a coloring set to keep her away from my handphone. I would say the plan is going well.

Keeping her occupied with coloring and card games

But honestly, if she’s coloring on a coloring book, how is that different is that from coloring on an app? I reckon, this may be the sort of question that Sophie will throw at me, then how will I answer? Sure, I could  shoot back with the, too much time on the iPad will make you blind, yada yada or something close to that. But a recent article that suggests that technology may help in kid’s learning is making me rethink my strategy.

 Daddy join in too!


I found this photo by Alexis too funny not too share!Judging from this, I can tell that we’re not the only parents who kids need their screen time.


So what are your house rules when it comes to screen time at meal times?


Linking up with Sandra's Talkative Thursdays

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Comments: 10

  1. Adora April 26, 2013 at 10:59 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing this, Susan. I am very big on no phones during meals. I like conversations during meals. That’s the only time when the whole family sits together at the same time and I don’t want to ruin it by throwing a phone in the mix. We came to a point too that Poppy would ask to watch videos of her during meals out, but we managed to wean her off it. Now we bring small books to read or notepads for her to doodle on, and activity books. Or we play games like I Spy or “I’m thinking of a person”, just to get her creative cells moving, and for us to look each other in the eye instead of seeing the tops of each others’ heads.

    I don’t deny that there are times I so want to just let her play with my phone because its so easy and a guaranteed way that we all get to eat, but I resist and resist and resist and hopefully one day it will all be worth it

    • Susan April 26, 2013 at 10:45 pm Reply

      Yes, I agree that meal times are a great way to catch up on each other’s day. I’ve also taught Sophie to ask, how’s your day and to share what goes on in her day at the childcare.
      But truth be told I’m sometimes so tired after a day’s work that I just cave in. So I’m also reminding myself not to take the easy way out.

  2. Double Ls Mom April 26, 2013 at 10:16 pm Reply

    At home, it’s strictly no telly during meals (actually it’s no telly all day, except 7-8pm in my household). When we dine out, I let my kids watch videos on Youtube with our mobiles while we are placing orders and waiting for the food to arrive. Once the food reached the table, they have to tuck in, if we find them eating very slowly or not eating, we take back our mobiles at that instance.

    • Susan April 27, 2013 at 12:31 am Reply

      Our TV is hardly switched on except for weekend mornings when my girl catches a show or two before we go out. We also do a timeout when the food comes but sometimes it can be so hard to peel her away from the screen.

  3. Pamela Tan April 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm Reply

    Yes, we dun allow the kids to play iPad and watch tv during meal times at home. At home, they just eat. Though Asher sometimes plays with his toys while he is being fed. Outside, I make sure I bring my own bag of tricks like their notebook for doodling, and little story books. I usually don’t bring games coz games can’t be halted on a whim (when the food arrives), whereas drawing/colouring can.

  4. Ing April 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm Reply

    This is an interesting post, because I can so identify with it! I was also the mom who “tsk” at kids staring at screens during mealtimes, and told myself that I will NEVER allow my own kids to do that. Guess what? When I become a mom, I realise there are many things a parent does that others will never understand, unless they are in your position. So, who are we to judge?

    Coming back to mealtimes, we don’t allow gadgets or TV, unless there’s really no choice. Do I let them play on the gadgets for a few minutes until their food comes, or let them run wild and disturb the other people trying to have a peaceful meal? My choice is obvious.

    I like the last photo, it’s funny! 🙂

  5. The Little Mom April 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm Reply

    I think we all under estimate the power of the kids before we became parents. I was also the kind that don’t agree with gadgets when it comes to meal time. But yes I have fallen for it to.

    Like most, we try to limit gadgets before and after meal. My boy knows he should stop watching and concentrate on his food when its here. But the girl is a little more difficult. So I’m trying to stop her from watching even before the food arrive. But its difficult when she sees her bro playing.

    So we have also tried bringing her for a walk before food come. So at least her waiting time is shorter. If I can eat with her I will eat with her so we shorten the time she has to wait for me to finish my food. But if I can’t, my helper got to bring her for a walk.

    Why are kids attention span so short these days. Did we cause it?

    • Susan April 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm Reply

      Was that question meant to make me guilty, because in some sense see I’m sure I contributed to that by allowing screen time. Guess at the end of the day, it’s all about moderation and setting limits for our kids.

  6. lisacng @ May 10, 2013 at 3:22 am Reply

    When we are out at a restaurant, we try to leave the phone out of J’s hands as much as possible. If he’s not hungry or the meal is going long, we don’t mind him playing on the phone. He’s only allowed to play on weekends and at restaurants anyways, so we aren’t that concerned. Plus, his skills seem to be developing fine, so that also reassures us that screen time isn’t that bad.

  7. […] she did it again and got a lengthy lecture from me on why I will not allow her to use the iPad or handphone especially at meal times and told her to think of ways to keep herself busy. Turns out she really did it and I was really […]

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