Amy Henry just wrote a great post about how to parent well in an age of technological excess. One of her five suggestions was to create screen-free zones, times when no one is allowed to use the computer or play a video game.
I think that, for the most part, travel is a great occasion for just such a zone. In fact, leaving the technology at home made my list of the top 10 tips for traveling with children. Here are a few of my best arguments for giving it a try:
– Technology, for all its advantages, has a way of distracting us from everything but what’s on the screen. What would it mean to be present to the wider world in a new or deeper way for even a week?
– It’s a great opportunity to spend time together as a family. One of the primary reasons I let my kids look at videos online or play mancala on my iPad is because I’m busy and want them to leave me alone. Traveling is my opportunity to break out of that awful cycle for a time.
– Do you find yourself thinking, “But how would we get through two flights and long layover without movies and video games?” If so, that’s probably a sign that you need a break. A video game might be a fine form of relaxation, but if you can’t imagine a day without it, you’re in trouble. We let our boys watch TV, but whenever I started to feel like I couldn’t parent without it, we unplugged it for three to six months.
– Very few kids are going to make new friends across language and cultural barriers when the comfort of a favorite video game beckons. They may not even choose to go deep sea fishing with you on a beautiful day. Take the game away as an option, and you’ll have a better chance of getting your kids to take hold of the new and wonderful, but more stressful, opportunities that present themselves when you travel.
We are in Costa Rica for three months, and obviously I didn’t leave all the technology at home or I wouldn’t be posting this. We tweaked things a bit because we are going to be here for so long. Still, there are no video games except what you can play on the iPad for one hour on Sundays. No screens at all on Saturday. And limited time with screens for schoolwork during the week. We have also decided to say that cartoons in Spanish count as part of learning Spanish, and the kids are allowed two shows per day. It’s not nothing, but it’s a whole lot less than they would like. And it feels like the right set of limits for all of us.
So go ahead and give it a try next time you travel and let me know what you think. You just might find that you like a little less technology in your life.
And that’s true whether or not you are traveling.