Frankie and Benny's has taken action to help kids reclaim their parents' attention.
The children have spoken and they don't like their parents using cellphones at the table. In fact, 70 percent of kids say they think their parents enjoy screen time more than hanging out with them.
This heartbreaking statistic was enough to lead a UK-based restaurant chain, Frankie and Benny's, to take drastic action. For a temporary time period, from November 29 till December 7, families who come into the restaurant will be asked to leave their phones in a "no phone zone" box at the table. The devices are meant to stay there for the duration of the meal. As a reward, kids eat for free.The phone ban is optional; families are not forced to participate, although the prospect of saving money on food is likely a nice incentive. Frankie and Benny's says the no phone zone box could continue long-term, depending on customer reaction. A spokesperson told The Independent,
"We've found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time."
It's like a trip back in time, to the days when kids actually had to sit and talk to their parents, scribble on coloring sheets, or play tic-tac-toe until their food showed up. Parents will have to interact with their kids, field their curious questions, and remind them of their manners because they won't be sitting like little frozen zombies, eyes glued to a screen.
I have to say, I am heartened by Frankie and Benny's fun challenge to families and hope it is well-received and becomes standard practice. Looking at phones at the table is downright rude, despite the fact that it's become oddly normalized in our society. The Emily Post Institute agrees, stating, "If you're having dinner with friends and family, be with them. The family meal is a social event, not a food ingestion event."
Studies have found that using one's phone at the table makes everyone unhappy – other guests, as well as the user. It's best left untouched, and if that message can be conveyed to the next generation of restaurant-goers from a young age, so much the better.