Media Moment – Dinner’s Centerpiece: Kindling Conversation at Dinner

Dear Reader,

2014 marks the beginning of CMCH chronicling monthly ‘Media Moments’. These posts will be about real-life experiences (the good, the bad and even the funny) involving media and child health. These stories are meant to help create a village square of commiserating and co-celebrating the many ways media intersect with the lives of children. Please comment and even submit your own ‘Moment’ to share with your fellow readers.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

Media Moment – Dinner’s Centerpiece: Kindling Conversation at Dinner

4820172202_87e171c4c2Recently, I had the good fortune of getting to live with some long-time family friends who have a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. The other night, I was home alone, cooking a delicious dinner—steak,sautéed onions and mushrooms, and a baked potato—when the mom and kids came home and rushed right to the TV to turn on WildKratts. Mom came to the kitchen and put several sushi rolls on two plates and set them down at the kids’ miniature table. She then went to the living room to collect the kids for dinner.

That’s when the kids started protesting loudly, screaming that it was a new episode that they hadn’t seen and that she couldn’t stop it. To appease her screaming children, Mom ran into the kitchen and turned the WildKratz episode on the 6-year-old’s Kindle Fire. She set it up on the kids’ dinner table, in between the two side-by-side plates of sushi, and shouted for the kids to come, promising that it was the same episode and that it was playing from the exact moment where they were in the other room, thanks to HuluPlus.

The kids sat down at their miniature table with their sushi and their WildKratts episode, and mom promptly left the kitchen to go to her computer in the living room. Both kids had their entire focus on the show, hardly touched their food, and were barely responsive to my probing questions about their day.

When I finished cooking my dinner, I asked the kids if they would mind turning the show off so I could join them for dinner at their small table. The 6-year-old said no, and when I asked again, she asked me why I couldn’t sit at the table with them while they kept watching. I told her there wasn’t enough room for both the Kindle and me, and that I wanted to be able to talk to them. After a few more moments of protest, Mom shouted from the other room that they were not being nice and for them to turn it off and have dinner with me. This didn’t work, so Mom came into the kitchen to turn it off. She was met with loud protests until the Kindle was out of sight.

After a brief moment of protest from the kids regarding their show, I put my plate on the table where the Kindle had been and sat down on the floor. Immediately the kids started asking me what I was eating, and they helped themselves to a bite of my baked potato and steak. The kids began describing what my food tasted like to them, and what types of seasoning they liked on their food. Very quickly the conversation changed to talking about their favorite kinds of sushi and what ingredients were in each type.

Once the Kindle was removed as the centerpiece of the dinner table, the shift from absorbed TV viewers to animated and engaged conversationalists was almost instantaneous. And after dinner was over, instead of returning to the TV, they went straight to their playroom, choosing to play with their physical toys and each other until bedtime.

~Former CMCH Intern