If You Whip Out Your Cell Phone During Dinner I Will Stab You With My Fork

shutterstock_158087222I hate cell phones. I despise them. I need a cell phone for work, and I am as guilty as any other person of checking my E-mail throughout the day on it, but I find the act of someone checking their cell phone during a meal as the epitome of rudeness, and I want it to stop. You can leave your ringer on so you can be reached in case of emergency, but if you are checking your text messages or sending an Email or updating your social media status while you are dining with me I will throw the bread basket at your stupid head. No lie.

I’m not the only person who feels being on your smartphone during meals is detrimental to your interactions with humans you are dining with, including your small children, because researchers at Boston Medical Center went undercover in 15 local fast food restaurants to observe parents dining with their children. From ABC News:

Parents in 40 of the 55 families observed were absorbed in their mobile devices, according to the study. They seemed more distracted when they were typing and making swiping motions with the fingers than when making phone calls. And almost a third of the parents used their devices continuously throughout their meal.

Some children appeared unaffected and ate their meals in silence. Other children were more provocative, with one set of siblings singing “Jingle bells, Batman smells” to get their dad’s attention.

“The conclusion I wouldn’t draw from the study, is that we need to completely remove these devices when we are with our children,” she said. “But it does raise the issue that we need to create boundaries for these devices when we are with our children.”


DUH. No duh. One of the biggest arguments I have with my own spouse is cell phone usage when we are dining in public or at home. I feel it sets a horrible example for our own children, including my teen son who has his own cell phone. I know my husband has a big important job and he needs to be available at all times, but I still lose my shit when he takes out his cell phone to check something for work when we are eating. Especially when we are eating in public.

If someone needs to check their email then they should excuse themselves and go do it in the restroom or something where I cannot see it. My teenager has ZERO need to check his cell phone at mealtimes, because there is nothing so pressing and urgent that he cannot deal with it after we are done. Nothing annoys me more than when I see entire families at a restaurant together, the majority of members doing whatever on their mobile devices while sitting at a table. Are we that BORING to each other we can’t even have a normal conversation and we would rather play Angry Birds than interact with the people we gave birth to?

When I see parents at places like parks where their kids are off playing on swings or something I see no issue with them being on their cell phones. Same for parents at grocery stores, for all I know they could be checking their shopping list or googling a recipe. But when it comes to going out to eat I think that is one time the phones can remain at home or in glove boxes or purses. Eating out is expensive. It’s an excellent opportunity to talk to your kids about what is going on with them, to gently teach them about table manners, to laugh and reconnect as a family. It’s impossible to do that if you are updating your Facebook status.

I’m sure there are exceptions, like if you have a person dear to you in the hospital on life support and you are checking for status updates, but let’s just assume that if anything major happens you will be alerted by a phone call. I refuse to believe that we live in a world where anything is that pressing we can’t pocket our phones for a one hour meal.

(Image:Robert Kneschke/shutterstock)

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  • Samantha Escobar

    There are few things that make me never want to invite a person back for dinner ever again. One of those is texting at the table (or while somebody’s talking at all, because WTF).

    (The other is a dislike for cats, obviously.)

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter
    • Samantha Escobar

      Now that’s a face I wanna see at my table.

    • Crusty Socks

      There are some chinese restaurants where they’ll put it on your plate

    • Samantha Escobar


  • K.

    I hate the thought that using a cell-phone while eating with others is becoming a new norm.

    Either be here and enjoy my company and share a meal; or go eat somewhere else by yourself and stare at a screen. Staring at your screen when I am sitting there with you makes me feel like the piano-bar player.

  • Lindsey

    It’s a huge pet peeve of mine as well. My husband and I regularly go to trivia/dinner with a couple of friends and most of the time, it’s me talking to him or vice versa and our friends are texting or looking at Facebook or Instagram. I don’t understand how these people cannot go two minutes without looking at their phones!?!

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      It makes me crazy. It’s like we are all weirdo robot people who can’t go an hour without missing something

    • K.

      Actually, when I come across people who literally cannot put their phone down, I can’t stop myself from thinking, “Why is your life so painful/dull/terrible that you need to constantly get away from it?”

      Yeah, I’m one of those GenXer fuddy-duddies.

    • Elly

      My boyfriend used to always have his face buried in his phone when we went out to dinner. Drove me nuts. Spent most the time just being quiet while he looked up gods knows what. I constantly told him it irritated me, but wasn’t until one day I explained that us going out to eat is about us being a couple not his face in his phone. Seemed to work, I don’t remember the last time he had his phone out when we went out to dinner and it’s been pleasant since.

    • jane

      Ohhh, that pisses me off SO MUCH during trivia night because I’m all “get the fuck off your phone, CHEATER!” Phones away during trivia, or I get (almost irrationally) angry.

  • Alex Lee

    Going out for dinner?

    All phones get placed in the middle of the table.

    First one to reach for their phone pays the check.

    Difficulty level: Sushi

    • Bunny Lucia

      I will never pay for dinner again. :D

      I love you. Best game EVERR

    • Crusty Socks

      If you ever go to dinner with Bunny, constantly have people calling, texting “911 emergency,” sexting, kik’ing, IG’ing, FB’ing, Tweeting her throughout the night.

    • Bunny Lucia

      Nahh, the best way to get me to respond is to send a dick pic or something, because the picture will pop right up on the screen and I’ll be like “OhGodOhGodOhGodOhGodOhGodOhGod.”

    • Crusty Socks

      Sucker! Now you’re gonna have to pick up the tab.

  • Scarlet

    I agree with this soooo much. If we are sitting down together eating dinner put your fucking phone away and interact with the people right in front of you!!!!

  • Kay_Sue

    Dinners, for me, are about socializing and catching up. Whether at home or out and about, we have a no phone at the table rule for me and my partner. It’s just…it’s rude. For that hour or so, you can focus on being present with the person you are with.

    I’m one of those parents you mention that will be on mine while the kids are running around and playing at the park, and I keep my grocery list on my phone (are you stalking me, Eve?!), and so I too (obviously) don’t see anything wrong with that. But dinnertime is sacred. That’s goes for when we are home too–no tech (or toys, our boys aren’t into tech yet) at the table.

  • Alicia Kiner

    THIS so much! We have one exception to this when we go out. If we go to one of those places that tend to take longer to get your food to the table, I will bring my kindle along to give the kids something to do so they don’t irritate the beejeezus out of us and everyone around us. Once the food comes however, electronic devices away. Period. And hubby and I leave ours in pocket/purse. It’s rude. Plus, I want my kids to know how to have conversations. They are getting old enough though, that I’m thinking about putting a deck of Uno or Phase 10 cards in my glove box, because then we can ALL play. And it just sounds like more fun all around.

  • JLH1986

    I’m not a fan. I also get irritated by parents who let the kid play with the phone or tablet “to keep them calm” while waiting for dinner or while everyone is finishing. Parents took kids out to eat before electronic devices and survived. I get so annoyed by this I won’t go out with friends who text while out or hand their kid a tablet. My husband and I have a rule meal times are for catching up and spending time. The phones stay in the car (except when his grandmother was in hospital). We have also implemented “No Cell Sunday”. Meaning we are not permitted to touch our phones on Sunday, if we have plans, we square that Saturday night (barring weather or emergencies of course). No email, no texting, no apps. We watch movies, clean house, cook, do yard work, nap, read, play games. BUT NOT PHONES. I now have a love/hate with Sundays because I love all the time with my hubs, but hate that it means Monday is right around the corner.

    • keelhaulrose

      I’ll admit I’m one of those parents who have let my daughter play on my phone. She’s two, and she eats quickly and not a lot, so she’s often done before we’re halfway done. We’ve used busy bags with our older daughter, but my younger one isn’t happy unless it’s electronic (she’s figured out for different remotes, and can start a DVD by herself), which is something I’ve from a lot of autistic kids. We tried the busy bag with her, but she just throws the toys, and I think it was much more annoying to the man who got a Captain Hook figure in his soup than those us when we just gave her my phone so she could press buttons on the emergency dialer with the sound off (and no chance of her actually dialing someone)

    • JLH1986

      I get that it’s convenient (and for kids with different needs I get it). I mostly get annoyed with my friends, because I know they could be teaching their kids to behavior better, but they “don’t want to deal with it.” Which means at 7 the kid has a meltdown at the table and is showing his ass because he hasn’t been taught how to behave. Plus the total freak out when the phone has to be put away to eat? So not worth it (to me) to give them the phone in the first place.

    • rrlo

      The problem with kids (depending on the age) is that you only have a few options: you have to engage them in conversation/play, let them run a muck, threaten them repeatedly with discipline to sit quietly or let them play with phone/tablet. No matter how amazing your child is – they are not going to sit in silence for extended periods of time without one of those four options being implemented.

      As a youngster I took my book and my walk-man everywhere – even to weddings. I don’t see the use of tablet/phone as anything different. Adult events are somewhat boring for kids and as long as they are reasonably learning how to converse and socialize – some form of distraction is mandatory.

    • Véronique Houde

      Pen and paper works wonders in restaurants too. Bring a colouring book and they’re set.

    • rrlo

      Oh yeah coloring is great – we have a whole assortment of stuff. We are always “prepared” with distractions.

    • WriterLady

      I’m really not one to get too irritated about cell phone usage in public, unless it involves interrupting someone who is in the middle of a conversation. Another pet peeve is when you see people who literally can’t remove the phone from their hands for even a millisecond…give it a rest, people!

      Honestly, I don’t even use my phone that often. I have very few apps, and I rarely use it for any purposes other than to text, take calls, and check FB on occasion. I’d much rather unplug until I can get to my laptop, where I can then waste my time (I mean, use my time wisely) switching between a number of sites. ;) But, if someone texts while out to dinner, and I’m not actively involved in a conversation, I will reply with a brief text. Same with an incoming call (though I make sure to turn off the volume).

      But I do agree that young kids are bound to get distracted and potentially cause a ruckus at restaurants, and cell phones deflect some of these issues. To be clear, I’m not referring to teenagers; most (not all) would abuse phone privileges. But, yeah, I really don’t mind little ones playing games and such before and after eating, as it keeps them busy and calm (dinner at home is a different story, though). Veronique mentioned coloring books, which is a good idea for some kids, but my son isn’t interested in coloring. He is much more of a puzzle-playing type, and allowing him to play with my hubby’s iPhone apps that involve hand-eye coordination allows us to eat in peace, without bothering nearby patrons. And the kiddo is content. Seems like a win-win for everyone. If other restaurant goers want to judge us for that, that’s their prerogative.

    • Ro

      I completely agree! My husband tends to want to hand our kids the phone to keep them quiet, but I always try to talk him out of it. Kids need to learn to deal with feeling bored, it’s a part of life. Those quiet, bored times are when their little brains are forced to come up with ways to entertain themselves. Or force us to find new ways to interact with them. Sure handing them the iPhone would probably be easier, but it seems like a bad habit to get into.

    • rrlo

      Like everything I guess it really depends on the situation – the age of the child, the length of the event, type of event. I agree though to rely exclusively on phones and tablets as a parenting tool is not a good idea but I don’t see any issues with having them in the parenting arsenal and bringing them out when appropriate.

    • brebay


    • Linzon

      The only time I break out the iPod Touch is when we’re waiting at the doctor’s office. It can be an hour+ wait and I’d rather have him doing that than going around and touching everything in the examining room!

    • beth

      OK, but here’s the thing. My kids are all under 10, 99% of the time we eat dinner together at the table at home. No electronic devices allowed, table manners and good behavior enforced. When we are out as a family same goes. When we are out with other people we always bring the tablet. It is really no different from a coloring book and most places even give out crayons. It ensures they will behave while the adults enjoy their meal and maybe have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around the ninja turtles.

    • JLH1986

      I get that. But for me, I wasn’t allowed to not behave. Coloring books or no. So while I get it, I don’t have to like it. it’s not as if it bothers my dinner or I’m going to tell a stranger off. But I also don’t choose to go to dinner with people who can’t or won’t leave the electronics off. To each their own.

    • rrlo

      Were you allowed to take books or walk-mans? I guess it all depends on how we were all raised. My parents were fine with us taking items to entertain ourselves while growing up.

    • WriterLady

      “I get that. But for me, I wasn’t allowed to not behave.”

      I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be targeting you specifically, but this (coupled with your initial post) is an intriguing concept, and I have some questions and reactions. When reworded to say that you were “supposed to behave,” this takes on a whole new tone and meaning. Why? Because young kids are not yet mature enough to act accordingly all of the time, and they are therefore bound to deviate from the rules from time-to-time. Not “allowing” a kid to misbehave is an impossibility. You, as the parent, are a separate entity from your child, and while you can set the strictest, most draconian rules conceivable (hypothetically speaking…I’m NOT suggesting your rules are draconian), your kids are ultimately the arbiters of their own behavior. Regardless of the tactics you use, your kids have surely misbehaved in public at various times. So, I’m curious: When your child acts up at a restaurant, do you walk out and leave? Do you verbally discipline the child in a soft, but stern manner? Because here’s the thing: It’s not a cop-out to provide a diversion so that the child is intellectually stimulated for a period, before joining the older crowd in a meal and conversation. Nor does this mean that you have violated the parenting oath of setting ground rules and following through with the established disciplinary consequences.

      This kind of attitude is what brings about nasty, unwarranted glares from nearby tables. The ironic thing is that when this happens, it usually involves a family whose kids are loud and fidgety, because (again) they are kids, and young children are prone to doing these things–sometimes frequently; sometimes only on occasion. No amount of proper parenting can curb this entirely.

    • Frannie

      I’m with you- we used to rely on the ipad a lot when my daughter was a toddler, otherwise we would not have been able to go anywhere. She got bored very easily and would melt down, and it was just easier to let her watch pingu for 15 minutes while we waited for our food than having to constantly bring her outside the restaurant for a time out. Now that she is older we don’t allow the ipad at dinner, because she is old enough to know how to sit still and eat her food. I know everyone says it’s a cop out, but it worked for us, and for the most part her manners at dinner are pretty decent for a 5 year old with autism. She sometimes still needs to be reminded to use her indoor voice, but she’s a good kid. I have no regrets.

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      I hate the tablet at the table! I was at lunch with a friend and there were parents there who gave their sons a tablet to watch TV shows on. The tablet was loud, the boys were loud and little was done to correct them. We complained and they were asked to knock it off. Electronic devices should never be used while dining. You’re supposed to be taking the time to teach good table manners and encouraging conversation.
      Yeah, it’s hard sometimes, but it’s important and part of the job. It’s not all about making them not bother you; being a parent is about teaching them to act appropriately in various social situations. They can’t learn that by playing with electronics.

    • WriterLady

      Perhaps we should pass the message along to restaurants that they need to get rid of the iconic coloring books and crayons (the latter of which are constantly falling on the floor), as well as the menus that double as crossword puzzles, mazes, and the like. Those items have been around for eons, and most restaurants that cater to kids have them. Look, I see the beef with people using their phones at inappropriate times and/or in an obnoxious manner. When I see a table full of people with their faces buried in their phones, I want to cringe. Adults and older children should be engaging with their company, otherwise what’s the point? But I wouldn’t go so far as to judge someone for making a single text during downtime or whatever. As for the kids, using an iPhone app (with the volume turned all the way down) is really just the modern equivalent of traditional forms of entertainment meant to keep the kids content and occupied (see those older forms of entertainment listed above). Once dinner arrives, play time with the phone apps comes to an end (just as the crayons, coloring books, or paper games would have been placed aside when we were kids).

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    Same here. We have a no phones during dinner rule.

  • LadyClodia

    The cell phone thing is probably the biggest pet peeve I have about my husband now. He’s always on his phone, and it annoys the hell out of me. He works a lot and he does use it for work, but he’s still always on it when he’s not working too. He’s usually on it reading or playing a game instead of paying attention to the boys with what little time he has with them. I also hate having to remind him to actually interact with the boys. Plus, I don’t use my phone for like anything ever; a few weeks ago I forgot to renew my minutes and it ran out, and I didn’t realize it until the next week.

    • Emily Wight

      I have the same problem with Spouse. Since I yelled at him for it, now half the time he just takes it into the bathroom with him. We have one bathroom, and he’ll be in there for 45 minutes with his stupid online games. I will kill him soon.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      i have a great way to deal with my fella doing this.
      he has small kids and we know the rule is if the phone goes off, to check, as the youngest one is on medication, we need to be sure she’s ok.

      if I’m in the middle of talking, and he checks his phone I just sit and stare at him.
      when he asks what’s wrong, i ask- Have I permission to continue?

      always works.

      or even better, i once texted him the rest of the sentence I was speaking. he looked at me and said why did you send that if you’re saying it?
      i said because now I know you’re paying attention!

  • brebay

    Agreed x 10. My son got a phone for Christmas, and we always go out to dinner on Christmas night. He started to put his phone with his pocket and I was like…Uh, no, if you want to play on your phone, cool. We’ll stay in, you can heat up a bowl of spaghettios and play on your phone. If I’m paying for dinner out, or actually cooking a meal, I want your company and an evening of conversation. Phone stays home. I don’t get where parents seem to be confused that just because you gave the kid a phone, you don’t get to make the rules. To be honest, even if they buy it themselves and pay the bill, I still get to set the rules about usage in my home.

  • Blahblah

    Cell phones while we’re already sitting in front of the telly and shoving our faces full of poorly cooked Hungry Mans because we’re too tired to let them really cook, I have no problem. But when we’re really OUT and trying to interact? No, you put that shit down and tell me about your day. This is called communicating. Let’s practice. -.-

  • Véronique Houde

    This is why I refuse to hang out with my boyfriend’s friends. MOST. BORING. TIMES. EVER.

    • Crusty Socks

      All I see are bottles of booze with some chips and crackers. That’s MY kind of a dinner!

  • Whitaj

    I agree that people on their phones are obnoxious. Truly, it is incredibly aggravating when I am trying to talk to someone and they are staring into their lap muttering “uh huh” and “one second, sorry”. The only reason I have my phone out when eating or out to dinner is because I often look up calories or points for food on the menu…sucks to be lumped in with the texters when I’m just trying not to eat a day’s worth of calories on say, a “salad”.

  • LiteBrite

    My friend and I call it “NOcializing” as in “we are NOT being social.”

    I was once at a restaurant with a couple seated next to us. The guy spent the entire meal on his phone. No joke. Yes, I was watching him because I was fascinated. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about my husband doing the same thing because he’s a cheap SOB and still carries a Razr.

  • SA

    Love it! We have very limited use of our phones during dinner – usually only to answer a question (win an argument!) we may have or if we are meeting people after. We haven’t even let our kid use one at the table because she’ll expect it all the time and we want her to learn how to entertain herself. I hate being out to dinner with someone that has a text conversation with another party the entire time. I keep mine on vibrate and on the table if we are on date night so I can see if it lights up and the sitter is calling – I don’t think there is ever a need to have the ringer on in a restaurant.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    My friends and I like to do afternoon tea from time to time. We invited one friend who spent 75% of the time on her phone. We didn’t invite her back. It was just too much.
    I’ll look at my phone if I get a text, but don’t bother answering it unless it’s it requires a timely response. Which is rare.
    But playing games at the table? No. Going on Facebook while eating? No. It just says to the people that you’re with that games or other people far away are just more interesting than they are. And that’s rude. If you’re in a social situation where it would be rude to do a crossword, it’s rude to be fiddling around on your phone.

  • Kati

    My children must have my husband and I wrapped around their finger because the only time I would pull a phone out at dinner is when my bag of ‘keep busy’ toys fails and we want to have big people conversation. Seriously, we would give anything to just talk to each other without interruption at a restaurant. What’s wrong with people?!

  • Kelly

    I really can’t understand why anyone would judge people for using cellphones at another table in a restaurant. You have no idea what’s happening in their lives. The last time my husband and I ate out we were using our phones to make plans to travel for a funeral and communicate with multiple loved ones who were hurting. We were at a restaurant because we weren’t up to cooking but we still needed to eat and getting out of the house to get some fresh air felt better than staying inside feeling like shit.

    • Ddaisy

      I would never judge one individual family for it. It’s when 40 out of 55 families are doing it that I can be pretty certain they don’t ALL have family emergencies. So although I don’t know whom I’m judging specifically, I do feel justified in judging the general cultural phenomenon.

  • ted3553

    We are no phones during meals as well. Especially with a teen, that’s one of the few times she’ll actually sit down and use more than 5 words at a time discussing what’s going on in her life with us.

  • Frannie

    I once went to dinner with family, and of five people already waiting for us at the restaurant, 3 were so engrossed in their phones they never actually looked up to say hello when we arrived. They spent the duration of the meal on the phones without making conversation or eye contact, and only got off their phones to eat. If this is going to be the new normal, I’m just going to let my kids cry and scream through the entire meal.

  • http://www.benwhoski.com/ Benwhoski

    But… if I don’t use my cell phone at dinner, how will I know which specialty beers to order?

  • JJ

    Using a phone to text or checking facebook while your with other screams one big thing to me: I WOULD RATHER BE SOMEWHERE ELSE YOU ARE NOT INTERESTING ENOUGH. Don’t invite me out to dinner, holiday get together’s or just to hang out at your house if your going to have our phone perma glued to your hand constantly looking at your screen. Call me old fashioned but If I invite someone out or over my place I want them to feel that they can actually talk to me face to face in engaging conversation without me checking my phone constantly. ‘Oh Lilly just came on facebook to post a message, so did Jake too I am talking to him now. LOL they just told a funny joke but you weren’t in the conversation so you wouldn’t get it, its no biggie”. The one that really bothers me the most though is people showing up to family holiday get together’s and spending the whole time texting, (with the volume turned up to loud so you hear the beep with every message sent). How often do you really see some of your family like grandparents, old friends or cousins etc?Will it kill you to sit down and eat a meal with them with your phone off the table and on mute? I love my sister but she is so guilty of this at every family function even just at nice smalls dinner with my parents. The whole time its just the beeping of her text message alerts. Is your friends house on fire are they dying? No! Then they can wait an hour or so for you to text back LOL smiley face icon.

  • Valerie

    So much this. It makes me rageful when I’m talking to a friend or coworker and they start fucking texting like I’m not even there. I hate to break it to them but really-positively nothing they have to say is so important that they should be ignoring the real live person there are having a conversation with. It actually hurts my feelings when it happens because I figure I must not be very interesting if the phone can pull them away so easily.

    On another note, I am so fucking sick to death of cars in front of me taking several beats too long to go at a green light and I can see their dumb head moving in such a way that suggests they are glancing down and texting. Holy shirt, seriously??? I doubt you are saving any lives with that text, cut the shit so you don’t take mine in a car accident. Inconsiderate assholes.

  • guest

    I give my husband the evil eye when he even picks up his phone while we are at home with our toddler. He only gets to see her a few hours a week because of his work schedule, so when he is engrossed in fb or imdb or texting with friends I get really annoyed. My mother is a huge offender, we travel hours to see her so she can spend time with our daughter and she spends the whole time playing games or on fb or watching cat videos. We are refusing to visit again until she can quit her addition to her ipad. When you have people next to you look up from your devices, they are more interesting than anything on facebook.

  • Dee meeee

    Guilty as charged. Working on it. *shrug*

  • memem

    Totally. I try to be a good example for my kids, because I know someday they will all have phones. When someone texts me – at any time – and they hear the noise, they will let me know. I always say something like “it’s OK, I don’t have to answer them immediately. I’ll check it later.” Obviously if there is some kind of emergency going on that would be a different story, but I would hope that someone would call in an emergency and not just send out a mass text.

  • Me-Me

    I posted this on FB the other day. That is so true. Would make for an awful movie. LOL. Phones are rude when used while with other people in a situation that generally is for face to face time. I had a guy I was trying to wait on, hold me and my line up to finish his damn text! Get off your fucking phone if you are being waited on in any form, if you are on a date or just spending time. I am guilty of it but I also try to NOT do the things that piss me off to others.

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