A somber family sits around the dinner table. They pass dishes of food around in dark silence for a few moments before, finally, the little girl mutters, “I’m not hungry.”
“I miss Daddy,” she says.
“I know,” her mom replies. “We all miss him.”
Where’s Dad? Dad (played by Will Ferrell) is … actually sitting at the other end of the dinner table, alive and well. He’s just too busy playing with Snapchat filters on his phone to bother interacting with his family.
And Ferrell plays the exaggeration to hilarious perfection:
The video is part of a new campaign called “Device Free Dinner.”
It’s meant to be a gentle reminder to all of us to be a little more present during family time. And before you go thinking this is another one of those needlessly shame-y cellphones-are-ruining-the-good-ol-days-of-how-things-used-to-be-better-in-the-past-when-I- was-a-kid or what have you, the benefits of being mindful about when we do and don’t immerse ourselves in our phones are backed by some pretty powerful research.
Studies indicate we check our smartphones dozens and dozens of times per day, mostly out of pure habit, and that checking your phone can make you more anxious than usual. We spend two to five hours looking down at our devices in a given day. Another study shows that even children under 8 years old are spending up to two hours per day watching shows and playing games on mobile devices.
This deep level of distraction isn’t always the best thing for building healthy relationships, especially those with your kids.
A recent study conducted on rats showed that when parents are distracted by other things during bonding time — even if the total amount of time spent together is high — outcomes for children can be worse. Simply put, the rat babies went on to “enjoy life” less than their peers.
The point of Ferrell’s PSAs isn’t that phones are bad — just that we should be deliberate about when we’re checking them.
Most of us aren’t willfully ignoring our children to mindlessly browse Facebook. And, besides, there are plenty of good and valid reasons to check your phone. We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.
The idea of setting aside some family time, like dinner, however, where everyone puts down their devices for a bit and focuses on spending quality time with each other is a good one. Committing to a #DeviceFreeDinner doesn’t mean you have to do it every night or that you should never have your phone on hand in case of emergency. It’s just one way of making sure you’re carving out some time to spend with your family — without digital interruptions or cat face filters getting in the way.
Not convinced or just need a laugh? Check out the first Will Ferrell ad spot below, then watch the other ads in the series on YouTube.