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Chick-fil-A employee Tom Rybolt of Canton displays the Cell Phone Challenge "coops."

Chick-fil-A locations in Canton and Hickory Flat are challenging customers this month to put away their cell phones and interact with each other.

Customers who are able to resist the lure of their smart phone screens are being rewarded with free ice cream, Kevin Williams, owner-operator of three local Chick-fil-A restaurants said.

“There is no doubt that setting our cell phones down and simply focusing our attention on the conversation at hand is a struggle,” Williams said. “This challenge is an opportunity for us to have some fun while bringing family and friends a little closer together.”

To make the task easier, dine-in guests are being given a cardboard box called "The Cell Phone Coop," where people accepting the challenge put their cell phones during their visit. Diners who make it through their meals without taking their phones out of the box earn dessert, Chick-fil-A's Icedream cone.

“Don’t be scared. Just put your phone in the Coop on the table to enjoy getting to know the person in front of you a little better," Williams said. "Sometimes we all just need a little reminder. Let this challenge be that spark that we be a little more kind to each other.”

Tribune columnist Mary Migliaro, an educator and parenting mentor has said putting away cell phones is good for family communication.

"For parents to demonstrate their love and concern for their children, they must create an environment that allows for good dialogue with their kids," Migliaro wrote in October. "Good communication also assists parents in knowing what their children are doing and how they are feeling."

Family meals are a great time for parents and children to communication, Migliaro said, especially without cell phones and other distractions.

Williams' Chick-fil-A locations are 2048 Cumming Highway in the Canton Marketplace shopping center, 130 Keith Drive in Canton and 6114 Hickory Flat Highway, Canton.

Williams said he hopes people will take their cell phone coop home and use it there, as well.

“As a parent, I understand the importance to create an environment around the dinner table at home that welcomes conversation,” he said.

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