Parents Prefer Screen-Free Entertainment at Restaurants

February 14, 2024

Restaurant meals are time-honored opportunities for families to bond, enjoy family time and forge new family traditions. Whether in-restaurant, at home, or on-the-go, and whether from limited-service restaurants or full-service restaurants, parents want restaurant mealtimes to feel special for their families.

In an era defined by an abundance of screen time for kids—and, let’s be honest, for adults too—the C3 team set out to explore how screens affect family restaurant mealtimes, and what alternatives are preferred by parents for entertaining and occupying their kids. Read on to see what we learned!

Kids + Screens
Today’s kids—Gen Alpha children born between 2010 and 2024—are known to be tech-savvy, but they’re also oversaturated with screens. 75% of parents with a kid ages 2-11 say their kids use at least one device (tv, tablet or phone) many times a day1. Studies have shown that more hours of daily screen time are associated with lower psychological well-being, including less curiosity, lower self-control, more distractibility, more difficulty making friends, and less emotional stability2. But screens are also important tools in parents’ toolboxes as they balance their own responsibilities and mental health with keeping kids entertained and occupied.

How does this manifest during restaurant mealtimes? In our survey3 of 440 parents of kids ages 3-10, parents were split on their use of screens to keep kids calm and entertained during restaurant meals. The majority of parents at least occasionally let their kids use screens, whether eating restaurant meals on- or off-premises. But for many, the use of devices is not their ideal: 55% say they try to avoid using screens to entertain their kids, 60% call it a “last resort” and 41% feel guilty if they have to resort to screens. Most importantly, 63% feel that using screens at restaurants takes away from family time.

An Entertaining Alternative to Screens
Restaurant brands have a role to play in supporting parents in their desire to make restaurant mealtimes special for their families. Our study showed that:

  • 83% of parents agree that when a restaurant offers screen-free entertainment for kids (like toys/coloring) it helps keep their kids off screens.
  • 79% agree that screen-free entertainment adds joy to their kids’ restaurant experience.
  • 80% say that it makes the dining at those restaurants feel like more of an experience for their family.

The Business Case for Screen-free Entertainment
Given that, it’s not surprising that 84% of parents wish more restaurants would provide screen-free entertainment (like toys/coloring) for in-restaurant meals and 61% wish restaurants would provide this kind of entertainment in delivery/take-out orders. In fact, 67% say they’re more likely to take their family to restaurants that offer screen-free entertainment.

What is your brand doing to entertain kids and add joy to families’ restaurant experience? C3 can help!


1 KidSay 2023 Family Report, KidSay, June/July 2023, n=883 parents of kids 2-15.

2 Twenge JM, Campbell WK. Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: evidence from a population-based study, 2018.

3 C3 Screen Time at Restaurant Mealtimes Study, July 2023, n=440.

C3 is a Kansas City-based marketing and design agency that brings brands to life for families with children through experiences and entertainment. C3 uses insights, strategy and expertise to produce award-winning programs and custom products to help major restaurant, hospitality and service industry partners connect with families wherever they are—in person, at home or in the community at large.

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