Skip to main content


Modern Family Etiquette – What The Survey Said

By November 4, 2013Blog
modern family etiquette

A survey was commissioned by UKTV to mark the launch of You, Me & Them, TV channel Gold’s first scripted comedy, which started Wednesday 23rd October (2013) at 9pm.

Having been asked to do a radio day for them to discuss the findings, I thought it would be useful for my readers to see the results of the survey so that you, too, can begin thinking about the rules that are important to you in the modern day.

I often say that we all need to define our own relationship rules because mimicking other’s rules won’t always work for us and because we cannot completely emulate the rules of our parents and grandparents who lived mostly during the pre-digital era.  So let’s have a look at the rules Brits voted most important and see which resonate with you and which inspire you to come up with your own set of family or relationship rules.

2000 people were asked to pick their top modern family rules from a long list of 50 rules.  From that list, this top 10 was compiled…

  1. Digital shut down on Sundays – Mobile phones banned from Sunday lunches (which are always eaten at the table) – 63%
  2. Equal childcare – nappy changing and childcare at weekends shared equally – 52%
  3. No WiFi as punishment – Children punished by turning off the WiFi and confiscating phones instead of grounding – 45%
  4. Bride and Groom tax – Children pay for/ contribute to their own weddings – 37%
  5. Digital Thank You – Thank you notes sent via text or email are now a common practice – 33%
  6. The Three Day rule – No longer than three days spent in close proximity to family – 27%
  7. Revolving the in-laws – Alternate family visits at Christmas and Easter – 25%
  8. Responsible Weaning – Introducing alcohol to younger teens – celebratory glass of Champagne at special occasions under adult supervision, to encourage them to drink responsibly – 13%
  9. The Full Family Holiday – parents go away with grown-up children once a year – 12%
  10. Artistic licence – Take 50% of what dad and granddad say with a pinch of salt – 9%

So what does this list suggest?  Amongst many insights that can be gleaned, the survey suggests that we are adapting very quickly to the use of technology, perhaps sometimes to our own detriment.

The most popular modern family rule was banning mobile phones at Sunday lunches and yet in at number five is sending digital thank you notes instead of handwritten ones.  On the one hand we have come to realise that technology can interfere with relationships being nurtured and so we ban them in certain instances, and yet we think it is sincere enough to send a group digital thank you text or email, instead of taking the time to write and post individual hand written notes, or at least send personalised digital ones.

I’m not saying that smart phones aren’t incredibly useful or that sending digital thank you notes doesn’t have several advantages, they are and they do.  However, at what point do we draw the line between cold, robotic, insincere, relationship-damaging neglectfulness, and smartly adapted behaviour?

Our modern behaviour begs the question, are we just losing our manners are we actually losing sight of what makes us human beings?

The number one rule, banning mobile phones at Sunday lunches, would suggest that as the digital dust is settling, we are beginning to see what technology is doing to our relationships, and families are beginning to put new rules in place to maintain that warm, personal connection that we thrive on as human beings.  We have to spend quality one-on-one time with people if we wish to maintain any real relationship with them.  Unfortunately, what technology does (and yet I LOVE technology) is it distracts from bonding with people at a deeper level.

Are you fed up of talking to the side of someone’s face because they’re so absorbed by their mobile phone?  Do you sit spending quality time with your spouse or child, only to feel you are competing with their distracting thoughts about who has responded to their earlier social media update?  Are you lost for conversation with friends because you have seen all their news on Facebook?  Are you unable to fully relax because your phone is constantly bleeping with notifications of emails, social media updates, text messages, and phone calls?

For all the time technology is allegedly saving us, how much time does it ultimately take up elsewhere?  For all the convenience it provides, how inconveniently is it destroying the relationships that are so important to us?

So, time to make your own list of family rules.  Use the above as inspiration but sit down with your family and come up with your own, all the while remembering that the rules are being made to ensure that you stick together like a team, for life.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Ooh! Interesting stuff there Sam!
    I particularly like the ‘no mobile phones at Sunday lunch’, although we have this rule for all mealtimes in our house! it’s the one time when we can all sit down together as a family and discuss what’s been happening throughout the day.
    I agree that modern technology does make our lives ‘simpler’ in terms of mass replies, but I guess it’s dependent upon what you are thanking someone for; I’d hate to get a wedding present thank-you text for instance!!
    Running my own business means there is always the opportunity to do ‘just one more thing’, but we have set family time each day so that my kids get to spend quality time with their parents and I think that’s really important.
    I didn’t see the programme, but will seek it out on catch-up. Thanks!

    • Sam says:

      Thanks Amanda! Yes, being almost regimented for the sake of creating a well-balanced life is something I strongly advocate, same for healthy, successful relationships; be regimented if you have to in order to look after your relationships and your own happiness.

      Yes, you should watch it – funny, with great acting.

  • Hi Sam,
    Another great well written and topical article. I’m sharing this via my buffer and have already printed and shared with my family. It’s very in line with my own article about “Will the Way we Use Technology Kill Relationships”.
    But I like the use of the research and the way you extract insights. So many great points you make that resonate on so many levels. Great article!

  • Sam Owen says:

    Aw, thank you so much, Peter, for sharing with others and your kind words. I’m sure, judging by your great articles and comments, that you and I could dissect this topic for hours! 🙂

    We both appreciate technology and yet at the same time are very mindful of its implications instead of just getting washed away with the hype and excitement of it all.

    Thanks, Peter!