TV during meal times is a big debate.
There has been a rule when I grew up that the TV should be off during meals. Technically, the enforcement was easy since the dining table was set in the kitchen with no direct view in the living room.
At my grandparents' at that time, TV was on during breakfast.
In my opinion, I prefer to have the TV off during the actual time of dining. Why? I like to eat healthy food, not the average news or commercials that are being aired at the moment. I like to discuss about good things that happen in the family, not the latest accident report or drug scandal, and have my focus of what's happening here and now.
As well, I prefer to have no cellphones or distractions that drive focus away from that privileged family gathering. If a call is coming in, I just let it go to voicemail.
Some may say, especially kids, that dinner moments can be boring without TV... it's up to us, parents, relatives, older brothers/sisters, to make the dinner time pleasing to everyone and give the good example. This way, there will be no temptation to pick up distractions. For example :
- Talk about things that can interest everyone.
- All happens here and now. Avoid using the phone, whether it's landline or cell. If an important call may be coming, it's okay to pick up and tell to call back later.
- Do not leave the table unless for service or until you allow everyone to leave the table too i.e. dinner is over.
- Avoid lengthy talks about subjects that interest only the older ones such as finances, politics, stories about acquaintances that half the table do not know about... or make everyone confortable by introducing the situation to the newcomers. If kids ever ask "what are you talking about?", do no answer "shut up" but explain.
- No arguments at all costs! Whether it's about a low grade, bad behaviour or such.
- Do not let anyone wait for too long between the different dishes. In France especially, we use to have cheese before the dessert but kids usualy do not eat that; that can be perceived as forced waiting time. Also, do no call to dinner half an hour before the starter is served... (that's a caricature, but you get the idea).
And then, naturally, TV will not be needed at all.
It's okay to set up a dinner around TV or a movie from time to time, as long as everyone is interested by the show.
There is another situation where dining and TV can mix : the restaurant. Depending on the cases, it can be OK to watch the screen while waiting for the dishes, but not as everyone is served.