Managing Technology on Family Vacations

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The long awaited family vacation had finally arrived. The family had traveled over nine hours in the car to get to their destination. Everyone was unpacked and ready to enjoy a week off. As the mother looked out from the balcony, she saw the sun going down and the sun rays reflecting off the ocean water.

She went back inside and encouraged the rest of her family to come out and see the sunset. Her daughter and son barely looked up from their phones before they went back to watching YouTube videos. Her husband stayed hunched over his computer completing some last second work that had come in.

A situation like this one can happen all too frequently for families on vacation. Despite the investment of considerable time and money, families can miss out on the true benefit of vacation due to technological interference. At its’ best, vacations allow a break from routine and a chance for families to reconnect with one another.

The trick is to figure out how to balance using technology on vacation and still have plenty of uninterrupted family time. There are several different strategies that families can use to accomplish this.

The first strategy is to bring technology but establish some rules for when it can be used. Technology can provide a great way for passing time while traveling on long car or plane rides. It is amazing how quickly a trip can pass while watching movies or playing game apps.

While using technology during travel can isolate family members from one another, it can also bring families together. One idea is to have each family member create a music playlist. The various playlists can then be listened to on the way. The shared playlist can help expose parents to new music they might like while children and adolescents can get exposed to unfamiliar musical genres.

Once families arrive at their destinations, it is time to limit the media consumption. One way to limit technology is by using the inside/outside rule. In this case, technology is fine to use in the hotel room or when winding down for the night. When it comes to the daytime, it is time to go outside for play, adventure, exploring, and family conversations.

Another strategy is to establish rules for when family members can use their phones. While it would be ideal to put all phone usage on lockdown, it usually is not practical. Families need to decide which type of rules would best fit their families regarding phone usage. Examples could include not texting during family outings or only using apps when in the car.

A final strategy is to give families a way to bond during down times that don’t involve technology. Packing card or board games can provide activities that the whole family will enjoy in addition to creating some good memories.

As you are hitting the road for your family vacation, take some time to think about the role that technology will play in it. Make some plans and enjoy your time together.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on June 17, 2016

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