Why You Should Ban ‘Virtual’ Talk @ the Dinner Table


Jay Verkler, CEO of FamilySearch International, noted in his talk at RootsTech, that he and his wife don’t allow any “virtual” talk at the dinner table in their home. He explained that video games are pretty big in their children’s lives, but at the dinner table they are not allowed to talk about video games, the latest YouTube videos, or whatever the popular must-see “viral” item on the internet is. I assume this also means none of the other meaning of “virtual talk” as well: no texting, IMing, or updating your Facebook status at the dinner table.

That proves to be an excellent rule, as we should guard family dinner time as if it were something sacred. Not that dinner itself is sacred, but because as Elder Oaks said in 2007:

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.” Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you. (Dallin H. Oaks: Good, Better, Best, General Conference, Oct. 2007)

If dinner is filled with talk of virtual things, and/or everyone is glued to their virtual device while they eat, it’s not really eating dinner “together,” is it?

Let us know if you’ve had experience with similar rules, or what your thoughts on this are, in the comments below.

  1. I think I can agree with the no texting/FBing/tweeting rule more than the no "virtual" talk. YES … family dinner is super important (hence the devices can be set aside for family dinner rule). But right in the sentence "video games are pretty big in their children's lives" … doesn't that say it all? Use what is important in the kids life as a jumping point for further discussion. Banning it is almost like saying "I don't care about what is important to you." I don't know all that much about many video games myself, either, but as a teacher librarian I know there is usually some way to bring it back in to a conversation like … I don't know … something about how the Harry Potter game is alike or different than the book and "OH! I also read such and such book and it was kind of like Harry Potter in this way and would you like to go get a copy at the library/bookstore?" Or "OH! I saw that you were playing a dance or sports type video game the other day. How about we plan a visit to the park/gym/whatever and play that game in the real world?" Or even "That was quite an intense combat game I saw you playing earlier. It must be scary for our soldiers far away from their families in ….. Let's write a letter after dinner to such and such a soldier from our ward/stake. I bet they'd appreciate that."

  2. I agree with the ban on using electronic devices, as they prevent interaction between the "Real" people sat around the table, I also agree that table time is sacred. I think that sitting together as a family is important for social and health reasons, I know parents that feed the children, then sit down later for a proper meal, in my experience these kids often eat lots of "kids foods" and end up being fussy eaters.

    On the topics that can be discussed at meal times, I would disagree. Sitting together is an excellent time to find out what your kids are up to. Talk about games for example has led to discussions about the content and morals portrayed, which has led to a decision being made by the child not to play any more because a sibling has pointed out what was thought to be acceptable was borderline. In fact I would go as far as to say if you want your kids to be open and honest with you, any opportunity to talk with them, about anything, is good time.

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