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Poll: Families report text and email at dinner is on the rise

Dinnertime is still when families can connect with each other — but a rising number are also connected online during dinner. And that may be getting in the way. 

Despite the bustle of the modern world, most Americans report that they dinner as a family frequently, and most say doing so brings their families closer together. But many parents report that electronic devices are a presence at the dinner table, and the percentage of parents who say there is emailing, texting, or phone use during dinner has doubled since 2009.

In contrast, having the television on during dinner has declined over the past decade: in 2009 a third said the TV was “always on,” but now fewer than one in five say so. But television still remains a familiar presence at the table: half of parents who have children under 18 in their households say their TV is on at least sometimes when they eat dinner as a family — including one in five who say it is always on. So, it may be that American tables have just substituted one distraction for another.

Does using electronic devices have an effect on how families relate to each other at dinner? Most Americans say their family dinners bring them closer together, regardless of whether or not television or electronics are present at the table. Still, those parents who report using electronic devices or watching TV at least some of the time during dinner  are less likely to say so than those who use electronic devices or watch TV either rarely or never.

Even if the way American families are eating together is changing, most nevertheless still do eat together as a household. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say their family eats dinner together most of the time, and this rises to 73% of parents with children under the age of 18 — the same percentage recorded among parents back in 2009.

Another thing most Americans agree on: eating together as a family tends to bring their family closer together. Two in three Americans think so.

This poll was conducted by telephone October 27-November 1, 2021 among a random sample of 1,017 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Glen Mills, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.  

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone. 

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The error for parents with children under 18 in their household could be plus or minus 6.6 percentage points. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. 

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