A McDonald’s in Singapore has introduced mobile phone lockers in an attempt to encourage customers to put their smartphones away while they eat. The initiative, dubbed Family Playdate, is specifically aimed to make family meals more, well, familial. As for how well it’s going, that’s unclear. A recent photo taken at the McDonald’s shows that none of the 100 lockers had a phone inside, implying either that families are resistant to the inarguable assertion that family dinners are important and more likely to be meaningful without technology or that people don’t want to leave their phones laying around in public spaces.
It’s no secret that families eating meals together is great for a kid’s development, even having been linked to improving children’s grades and mental health. Additionally, family dinners have been shown to create better relationships between kids and their parents. But the pervasiveness of smartphones in modern society has made it so families can share a meal without uttering a single word. This is a very pressing issue in Singapore, where the average 12-year-old is estimated to spend over six hours on their phone every day.
The Family Playdate initiative was created after a survey conducted by McDonald’s Singapore shed light on the phone habits of families during meals. Over 300 parents were interviewed and the survey found that 72 percent of children use their smartphones during mealtimes. Parents barely did any better, as 69 percent admitted to using their beloved phones during meals.
This is not the first time McDonald’s has attempted to curb customer’s screen addiction. The “Phone Off, Fun On” initiative tries to get people to get off their phones and enjoy a meal by having a designated area on each table where patrons are supposed to put their phone until the end of the meal. A McDonald’s in India also attempted to get kids to use their phone less back in 2015. So far, none of these initiatives have had much success. Perhaps because people want to use their phones to distract themselves from the fact that they’re eating in a McDonald’s.