By Diane Jones Lowrey, Common Sense Media
I remember so well the days when my now-grown daughter was a little girl learning to count and read and taking in life lessons from the beloved characters on Sesame Street about how to be a good, caring person. Back then, she could only watch Sesame Street on our one household TV at the time it came on. Today, kids can watch the show on multiple channels, on different devices, whenever they want.
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Sesame Street, Common Sense Media, the leading advocacy organization for kids in the digital age, has teamed up with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the iconic children’s show, on a new series of TV spots starring all your favorite Sesame Street friends getting together for dinner—we see them tossing, stashing and even eating (guess who) their devices as they sit down around a big community table. The key takeaway of the campaign that everyone can agree on: Devices and dinner just don’t mix.
Research emphasizes the importance of family dinner for kids, showing positive outcomes that include boosting literacy development, fewer behavior problems, less substance abuse, and healthier eating.
A Common Sense Media poll of nearly 900 families with children between the ages of 2 and 17 years old found:
- Family dinner is an institution. Seventy percent of families eat dinner together five or more times a week.
- Dinner is a time for sharing. Almost all (93 percent) of parents think conversations at family dinners are important for talking about things happening in their children’s lives.
- Devices aren’t welcome but often have a seat at the table anyway. Even though previous research has found that 88 percent of adults don’t think it’s OK to use a phone at a family dinner, 47 percent of parents said they or a family member used a mobile device at dinner in the last week. Thirty-four percent said they had the TV on for all or most dinners.
While today’s technology brings amazing benefits, it can too easily take the place of important in-person interaction and conversation, and families need the reminder that our kids learn best from loving caregivers and supportive teachers—the people in their lives who they look up to and spend time with. From a very young age, kids also mimic the stories and characters they see on TV. What better on-screen role models for young viewers than the colorful characters of Sesame Street?
“Our devices keep us connected, informed, and engaged, but dinner time is an important time to just say ‘no,’” said James P. Steyer, founder, and CEO of Common Sense. “Everything from better grades to a healthier lifestyle has been linked to eating together regularly as a family. By having Device-Free Dinners, families will gain important family time and set an example for kids that we all need to carve out face-to-face conversation time in our lives.”
Setting regular family device-free dinners show children the importance of tech-free time together. Parents are a child’s most important role model and a parent’s frequent engagement with media and devices takes away quality interactions with their child. Sesame Workshop’s Dr. Rosemarie Truglio also suggests that parents be mindful of the amount of time and types of programs they watch in their child’s presence since their child will adopt their media preferences and habits. The Sesame Street characters deliver the message in a way that will engage both children and their parents.
Now in its third year, Common Sense’s award-winning Device Free Dinner campaign aims to raise awareness around media balance and encourage families to make the most of their time together. The Common Sense and Sesame Street PSA will be distributed nationally and will run in both English and Spanish. Click this link to view the Common Sense and Sesame Street PSA, and get the tools and advice to help you and your family enjoy device-free meals.