Study Reveals Texting And Talking On Phone OK During Mealtime, But Not Social Media


Talking on the phone or texting during dinnertime is considered more appropriate than logging on to social media, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people's feelings toward whether or not mobile usage should be allowed at the dinner table depends on what you are doing, and who else is present.

The researchers surveyed 1,163 people between the ages of eight and 88 in English-speaking countries around the world, according to the UM website.

While texting and answering a phone call are both OK, using social media at the table is still frowned upon.

Researchers believe that this is because it takes a short amount of time to text or talk on the phone, while posting something on social media may take longer. The study found that this was true for adults.

However, when it comes to children, texting is rated as less appropriate due to kids socializing with their friends more than a lot of adults do, researchers said.

"These results are interesting because they challenge the idea that using your phone during a shared meal is categorically inappropriate. What we find is that attitudes are much more nuanced than that," said Carol Moser of the UM School of Information and the study's lead author. 

"A quick text or even phone call with your boss might be OK. Watching someone across the table thumb through their Facebook feed, that's different," she added.

The study also found that people in their mid-'20s see using devices at the dinner table to be more acceptable. The older you get, perceived appropriateness of use decreases.

However, both adults and children have agreed that it is more acceptable for adults than kids to be on their phone during meals. A child being present at the table also decreases the perceived appropriateness of adults using their phones, according to researchers.

"People have done other activities during meals like reading a newspaper or watching the television for years. But smartphones introduce a new challenge," explained Sarita Schoenebeck, assistant professor of information and co-author of the study.

"You can't tell what someone else is doing on their smartphone, so you have no idea if they're ignoring you in order to reply to an urgent email or to play Candy Crush Saga," Schoenebeck said.

It isn't that hard to be a decent person and put your phone away while eating a meal with others.

"Overall, it really is distracting to use your phone at the table," etiquette expert Diane Gottsman told Real Simple. "You want to give your dining companion your full attention and you want to show them respect by engaging — and you can't really do that if you're looking up and down from your phone."

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