A RESTAURANT chain is trialling the offer of free meals for children on the condition that their parents hand over mobile phones for the duration of the visit.

Frankie & Benny's has introduced no-phone zones in its 250 UK restaurants - where diners are encouraged to place their devices in a box on arrival at the table and free children's meals are offered as an incentive.

The chain, which has restaurants in Stockton, Durham, Murton and Washington, said its research suggested 72% of British children wanted their parents to spend less time on their phone and more time talking to them.

Some 77% of parents said they felt guilty about the amount of time they spend on the phone, and 67% said their device had come between them and their family.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

More than a quarter (26%) checked their phones during family mealtimes, 23% checked while their child was talking about their day, and 7% admitted to checking while driving their children around, the poll indicates.

A spokesman for Frankie & Benny's said: "We want family to come first when you step into a Frankie & Benny's, and even more so around Christmas.

"We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table, and we've found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time."

Parenting expert Susan Atkins said: "We live in a busy, fast paced 24/7 digitally connected world, unless we consciously plan not to be.

"Parents are role models in everything that they do and in everything that they say, so by managing their own screen time parents are teaching their kids by example about when and where technology use is appropriate."

The campaign runs until December 7.

Ginger Research surveyed 1,500 parents and children.