p.p1 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #323333; background-color: #fafafaspan.s1 letter-spacing: 0.0pxspan.s2 letter-spacing: 0.0px; color: #1990e5Editor's note: This story was first published November 2015.I was pretty sure it isn't just my family that has a problem with cell phones at the dinner table, especially on Thanksgiving, but now I have proof.Jumio's 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits survey reported that one-third of us use our smart phones at the table. But what really surprised me was a study from Virginia Tech that concluded: "Even without active use, the presence of [phones and tablets have] the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections."In other words, just having your phone on the dining room table is enough to make you feel distracted and (ironically) disconnected.

p.p1 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #323333; background-color: #fafafaspan.s1 letter-spacing: 0.0pxSo far so good: The problem is defined. Now let's blame someone, starting with our teens! Of course, they're not the only ones at fault but - if my family is any indication -they're high up on the list of cell-phone etiquette offenders. A couple of years ago I asked my three nieces, all seated at the holiday table, to stop texting with their friends, to which they replied: "We're texting with each other so that we can have some privacy." Thanks, girls.p.p1 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #323333; background-color: #fafafap.p2 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 60.0px; text-indent: -60.0px; font: 14.0px Arial; color: #323333; background-color: #fafafap.p3 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 16.0px Arial; color: #1990e5; min-height: 18.0pxp.p4 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial; color: #009bffp.p5 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 16.0px Times; color: #666666span.s1 letter-spacing: 0.0pxspan.s2 letter-spacing: 0.0px; color: #1990e5Anyway, all the finger-wagging in the world by parents, grandparents, etiquette experts, and even this uncle, doesn't seem to be helping, so I decided to consult with the people who'd know best:more than two dozen teens and tweens. To my great surprise, they endorsed cell-free zones at the table and came up with some truly innovative strategies.Turns out that, just like us adults, they really do want to connect. They just don't want to be bored, and they fear missing out (the dreaded FOMO).Here's what advice they had for the rest of us:1. Put phones away. Literally. "I think a great idea would be to have everyone leave their phones in a basket. The first few to reach for their phones do the dishes. That's incentive for everyone to ignore their phones and focus more on being fully present with the people around them."2. Make someone the official photographer. This eliminates having a dozen phones out clicking pics to post of the happy holiday gathering. "One person can be in charge of taking photos. And that person shares the pictures with everybody else later." If the phones aren't out taking photos, it's less tempting to sneak a peek at your texts or Instagram.3. Play games - just not online. "I would challenge my family to think of what we did to entertain ourselves fiveyears ago. How did we manage to survive a whole dinner conversation without virtually talking to someone else? Engaging could involve playing board games - I Spy, 20 questions...anything. Or simply catching up and chatting with family members we haven't seen in a while."4. Talk about topics that interest everyone. "I personally zone out when the topic is all about my parents' work drama, but I'm sure they don't want to be talking about my newest video game either. Maybe we should all meet halfway and talk about family TV shows, public events that've been showing up on *both* social media as well as traditional news media, or just try known common interests."5. Make it a handheld-only ban. "If it would seem rude to bring a laptop, with a screen of that size, to the table, it probably is equally inappropriate to be staring at your phone for a prolonged period of time." That allows someone who truly needs to check email to leave the table and log on. Just not at - or under - the table.7. Out of sight, out of mind: "As simple as it may seem, I like to take an 'out of sight, out of mind' approach. I seldom find myself wondering how many likes my Instagram is getting or whether or not I missed a text when my phone is in a separate room. It isn't until I actually see my phone on the table that I think about all the things I need to check."And last but not least:8. Go cold turkey - just turn it off. "For the actual dinner itself, I would turn off my phone. It is easy enough to go cold turkey (pun intended) for the hour or so that you are eating."p.p1 margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px GaramondUpdate: A year later two of my three nieces are in different time zones (Madison, Wisconsin and Tel Aviv) from the rest of the family and we plan to connect via Skype before sitting down for dinner. Lesson to self: The very same devices that can divide us also connect us. I'll miss them--especially lecturing them on their cell phone manners. Who said it was easy to be an uncle!How are you dealing with the problem of cell phones at the holiday table? 'Fess up below.USA TODAY columnist Steven Petrow offers advice about living in the Digital Age.Submit your question to Steven . Or like him on Facebook

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