In a recent poll of gadget use on family holidays, takethefamily.com found a clear split between parents’ attitudes to screen-time while travelling.
Of parents surveyed, 35% said all family members take gadgets with them but limit when and how long they use them for. A further 24% said that they take gadgets but only use them on journeys and/or for emergencies, 4% of respondents said they don’t allow any gadgets for any member of the family, and 2% of parents said they take their own gadgets but don’t allow the kids any.
However, a surprising 35% said they all take gadgets and have NO rules on their usage while away. Meanwhile, a separate April 2015 survey by online ticket specialist Floridatix stated that two-thirds of parents think their children spend too much time on devices on trips, missing out on sunshine, swimming, family meals and the chance to make friends. This same poll found that the average time spent playing on smartphones and tablets while away is 2.5 hours.
Clearly, while parents are concerned about gadget use while on holiday, they often feel powerless to control it. Rhonda Carrier, head of content at Take the Family, freelance travel writer and mum to three, has provided us with her tips for limiting screen time on family holidays and breaks:
1. Pick a holiday or break with so much to do, both on-site and nearby, that the kids barely have the time to think about gadgets or screens. Traditional beach holidays often leave children with too much time on their hands – and the temptation to reach for their handheld even by the pool.
2. On the other hand, factor a loose hour or so into each day for screen time – kids may not end up even remembering about it if they’re out having so much fun hunting for mini-beasts, cycling through the forest or bat-watching, but at least they’ll know it’s available if they do.
3. Alternatively, allow the kids their screen time when they wake up in the morning – a sneaky way of getting a bit of a lie-in while ensuring that they don’t mither you for their gadgets or the TV for the rest of the day.
4. Take advantage of your surroundings to encourage the kids to focus on something that screens can’t give them and to reconnect with nature. Climbing trees, making dens and heading out with Forest Rangers will bring home to them what’s so special about the great outdoors.
5. Set a good example. While many parents couldn’t get away if they weren’t able to check their emails or even get a bit of work done while on holiday, letting your children see you constantly looking at your phone or laptop will make them want to do the same. If it’s unavoidable, set aside a specific time each day to get it done – and let the children get their social media, email or screen time over with while you’re taking care of your affairs. Then you can all concentrate on having a good time together.
6. Instigate a blanket ban on smartphone or gadget use at family meal-times, whether at your self-catering accommodation, in a hotel or at a restaurant. Too often parents use gadgets to keep kids quiet at the table, but sharing food and conversation is as important a part of your family holiday as any other.
7. Think about taking a digital camera instead of relying on your smartphone for photography – then you can leave it at your accommodation and avoid the temptation to use it while out. On the other hand, don’t forget the great usefulness of gadgets and apps while travelling – for instance, in sourcing a great local restaurant or finding out opening times.
8. Don’t take a hard line on screens while you’re on the road – gadgets can be incredibly useful during long car, train or plane journeys, or for traffic jams or airport delays. It can actually help to relax rules on screen-time while travelling – because the kids have had more than their fill, they may forget all about gadgets for a few days when they get to their destination.
For further information see TaketheFamily’s comprehensive tips for travelling with kids http://www.takethefamily.com/travel-tips