A holiday is a time for your family to connect with one another - and with the real world around you. Yet devices have a way of muscling in to take centre stage. Preventing that takes a bit of advance planning and a little bit of willpower.
But don't worry. You don’t need to go full-metal detox, advises Catherine Price, author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life,” offers some great tips.
These days, we all rely on our phones for a variety of uses that make life easier and more fun - whether it’s the hour-by-hour weather app warning us to bring an umbrella or extra sunscreen, or the unflappable Google Maps lady steering us through an unfamiliar cityscape.
Given how central screens are to our lives, a family roadtrip that did not allow kids’ devices is something very few mums and dads - and virtually no kids - would find relaxing. Or even bearable.
We can all wax nostalgic about the good old days of listening to scratchy AM radio, if you were lucky, or counting telephone poles, if you weren’t.
But that was then, and this now, and enthusing over the benefits of boredom isn’t likely to make the drive to the country a more memorable experience … except in the worst possible way.
How to "pack" devices for holiday
As a first step, Price suggests identifying what you want to use your device for while you're away. Photos? Navigation? Planning? Check, check and check. But what about entertainment? How much, if at all, do you want the kids to default to games and social media for fun or relaxation?
There's no right or wrong answer here. Be honest with yourself.
Now: What about work check-ins? Email has a way of dominating the consciousness of working parents the way Roblox can takeover a child’s. It’s not that that’s a bad thing, in the right time and the right place. But your family holiday is likely neither.
And “don’t fall for your brain’s tricks,” warns Price. “It is likely that your brain is going to concoct all sorts of ‘reasons’ you have to check, or scroll, or post while you’re on vacation.
"That’s because checking our phones triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that encourages us to repeat behaviors that our brains have judged to be rewarding.”
And not checking your email or Facebook or Instagram - or having a peek at your favourite game - actually releases the stress hormone cortisol. The resulting discomfort is real.
When you check in, you check out
Avoid giving in to the urge for a quick check by asking yourself What is the best thing that could be waiting for me? And remind yourself too that any bad news you might encounter has the power to ruin your day.
Remember, says Price, “when you ‘check in,’ you check out. Mentally and physically, we can’t be in two places at once. So every time you turn your attention to your phone, you are turning your attention away from everything else.”
And before you leave on that long-awaited holiday, prepare your phone for the trip by deleting “problem apps” - think social media, email, dating, games, shopping, news and others that deliver pokie-machine-style pay-offs. Or, if you’d rather not go that far, hide them in a folder on your home screen.
Another great tip is to turn off all notifications - not for all time, just for the duration of your holiday. It’s simple to do in your phone’s settings. Oh, and those little red dots that show up on email and messaging apps? They’re called “badges,” and you can turn those off too.
Finally, keep FOMO at bay by setting up holiday auto-responses for email, voicemail and text. Yes, you really can do this for texts! (on iPhone, use the customised option for “Do not disturb while driving”; on Android, you’ll need to download a third-party app like Lilspace.)
Now, sit down with the kids and help them to do the same - and buckle-up for a family holiday where “connection” doesn’t need a screen.
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