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Phones at the Dinner Table: ­-M Study Explores Attitudes

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Texting during meals; what is the correct etiquette?

A new study looks at how people use their mobile phones during meals, and what their attitudes are about others doing so.

Credit: University of Michigan News Service

A new University of Michigan (U-M) study presented at the ACM CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, CA, investigates how people use mobile phones at the dinner table and their attitudes toward other people doing so.

The researchers polled 1,163 people between the ages of eight and 88 in English-speaking countries, and they determined people's feelings are greatly reliant on what they are doing and who else is at the table.

The researchers found, for example, texting and answering a phone call to be perceived as more appropriate than using social media, possibly because the first two activities are much shorter than the third. However, children texting was viewed as less appropriate, probably because children are perceived to be largely socializing with their friends, and they do it a lot more than adults.

"These results...challenge the idea that using your phone during a shared meal is categorically inappropriate," says U-M doctoral student Carol Moser. "What we find is that attitudes are much more nuanced than that."

Although participants see using mobile phones at meals to be more appropriate the older they are, this attitude peaks by the mid-20s. However, both adults and children agree it is more appropriate for adults to use a phone at meals than for children to do so. Unsurprisingly, people's own mobile phone usage is the strongest indicator of their attitudes toward appropriateness.

From University of Michigan News Service
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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