Texting during family meals shows lack of respect


Q. I had lunch with my college-age grandchildren over Easter, and they didn’t put their cell phones down throughout the meal. Their parents didn’t intervene even though the children barely spoke. Isn’t this behavior still considered rude?

A. Texting during a family meal is rude, thoughtless and shows a lack of regard for others. Unless one is expecting an emergency, cell phones should be kept off when dining with friends or family. Perhaps you should speak with your children about their passive acceptance of their children’s rude behavior.

You mention that your grandchildren are in college. Share with them the results of a recent study conducted at Kent State University. After surveying 500 students, researchers found that those who used their cell phones the most had lower grade point averages, higher anxiety and a lower level of life satisfaction.

In an earlier study published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior, there was a positive relationship between cell phone use and lack of cardiorespiratory fitness. Instead of engaging in physical activities, many students are texting their friends, watching videos or playing games.

Students who are consistently using their phones to check social media are less likely to be engaged in real life. This passive fantasy world often leads to difficulties when they attempt to interact with others.

As a college instructor, I can attest to the fact that my classroom “texters” do much worse on exams than those who do not text. When I discover someone texting, I announce to the class that those with an “A” can bring out their phones and text throughout the class. They never do. The “A” students listen.

Q. At a recent social event, a couple I know had their 18-year-old son, who is in college, and one of his friends with them. The young men got totally drunk. When I said something, the mother explained, “They just need to blow off some steam before finals.” Please reiterate the dangers of underage drinking. Maybe the parents read your column.

A. It worries me that parents condone and even encourage their underage children to become intoxicated. These parents either have little understanding of the physical and mental consequences of underage drinking or the emotional development of teenagers.

Since the brain does not reach full maturity until early adulthood, many teens experience “unique invulnerability,” or the belief that bad things happen to other people, but are less likely to happen to them. They often believe that they can drink and drive, but do not believe others are capable of doing so. The website for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) states that 24 percent of teens involved in fatal automobile crashes were intoxicated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use by teens is a major health problem. People 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed; more than 90 percent of it is consumed in binge-drinking which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as “five drinks in a row on a single occasion.”

If these young men were consuming this much alcohol with their parents present, it is likely that they are drinking even more at college parties. Teens who drink excessively are more likely to have failing grades, social problems, physical difficulties, unprotected sexual activity, lack of emotional control and unintentional injuries such as falling or overdosing. Each year, hundreds of teens die from accidental overdoses by combining drugs and alcohol. Often these are prescription medications, not recreational drugs.

Even if children are in college, parents are still the authority figures. Permitting and condoning one’s child to drink excessively at a public event, or any other place, does not make one a “cool parent;” it makes one a negligent parent.

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Nancy Ryburn holds a doctorate degree in psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City. She currently teaches psychology at Southeast Arkansas College. If you have questions, e-mail them to nancyryburn@gmail.com. They will not be answered personally, but could appear in a future column. There will be no identifying information and all e-mails remain confidential.