Ask The Salty Waitress: How Do I Get Parents To Turn Down Their Kids' iPads?

Dear Salty, I have zero issues with parents popping a tablet or phone in front of their kid to keep them occupied in a restaurant, but here's my beef: While dining in (non-kid-centric) restaurants, I have encountered, on many occasions, children at a nearby tables watching videos or playing games at top freaking volume.

Since I don't want Peppa the Pig or Fortnite or whatever the hell (can you tell I'm not a parent?) to interrupt my adult evening out, what's the best way to handle these types of situations? I'm not anti-kid, I just wish headphones were the norm.

I'd never address a child directly, of course, but I also don't want to send a potentially stressed-out parent into "don't-tell-me-how-to-raise-my-kid" territory. My effort to avoid confrontation by shooting passive-aggressive pointed looks at oblivious parents doesn't seem to be getting my message across (only half-joking there) so is asking a server to handle it a cowardly move?


Dear Jennifer,

I'm positive the comments below won't devolve into arguments about kids' screen time, or whether iPads belong in restaurants, or whether kids belong in "non-kid-centric" restaurants. Totally, 100% confident. Not a chance.

Your question is, thankfully, more nuanced. You're not opposed to iPads, just iPads at jackhammer volume. Now I don't care if it's coming from an iPad, a cell phone, a person's mouth, or a kazoo—too much noise is too much noise, and you have a right to be able to hear your partner when you're out to dinner. If pointed looks aren't pointed enough, you'll have to be more direct.

Whether you want to say something to the parents yourself or have the server do it is up to you. You seem hesitant to do it yourself, so sure, ask the server to intercede on your annoyed behalf, just like you would with any kind of other issue. That's what we're here for, to make everyone's experience comfortable. Sometimes, that means playing mediator between two tables.

If I was your server and you brought this to my capable attention, here's what I'd do. I'd first make sure that in fact, the iPad is too loud. (I'm sure it's not all in your head, but I'm just double-checking.) Then, I'd oh-so-very-politely-and-sweetly tell the parents the restaurant has a policy against cell phones or screens with sound on at the table. That takes the focus off the kids or the family's parenting style, and presents it as an across-the-board policy rather than a judgment. I'd ask whether they would mind putting on headphones or potentially turning down the volume a few notches.

If that doesn't stop the beeping, whirring, whooshing, and Baby Shark-ing, then I'd offer to reseat you and try to get that family finished up as quickly as I can. They've got restless kids, so they probably wouldn't mind the swiftness anyway. It's not fair to you to listen to the noise, but short of ripping the iPad from their kids' sticky hands, not much I can do besides speed up their service and get them out the door.

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