When you think of vacation, travel and expense are initially what come to mind. But, what if your family decided to spend time together, even at home, even for one full day, but with no electronics?
One of the concepts behind vacation is escape. You need a break from your job, the household responsibilities, and other day-to-day stressors. In today’s world, however, we need to add cell phones, computers, tablets, and other electronics to that list. Without realizing it, we’ve almost eliminated face-to-face interaction with our family. It may be time to reintroduce and rekindle that concept. Taking a vacation from screens and wi-fi may be just what the family doctor ordered.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, several years ago, recommended no more than two hours of screen time per day, per child. Since then, they’ve had to revisit this recommendation—because it’s unrealistic. Kids carry smartphones. They use them to text, email, play games, and sometimes to answer or make a call. Most students, at any age, use the Internet for schoolwork. But mostly, kids are using electronics for entertainment.
Children, and truly, people in general, use electronics to watch TV or movies, listen to music, play video games, and even to enhance real-time conversations by verifying facts with Google. It’s because of this pervasive day and nighttime use that the AAP had to re-examine its advice.
When Intervention is Needed
Let’s be honest. Electronic use has become habitual and almost naturally unnatural. If your family participates in any of the below, give yourself a bonus point for each:
- Everyone, when home, talks face-to-face and doesn’t text each from room-to-room
- Phones are not permitted at the dinner table
- When it’s time to walk away or turn off the screen, there’s no argument
- When it’s time for bed, electronics are turned off completely
- When playing video games, there are little or no anger issues like screaming or cussing
- The kids are getting a full, good night’s sleep
- The kids are familiar with exercise and the outdoors
If, however, your family didn’t get any points (or very few) for the above list, then it’s probably time to detox from an overload of electronic consumption.
Off-Screen Vacation Itinerary
As with most vacations (in the real world sense), the longer the better. With taking a break from electronics, even one day can significantly make a positive difference.
Boredom can breed creativity. Adults born before, let’s say, 1980, learned to spend time interacting with others or found ways to entertain themselves without a screen. There may have been TV and the beginnings of the insurgence of video and DVDs, but mostly, people spent their time other ways. Giving your family the opportunity to visit an experience from the “old days” can provide a new prospective to life—and actually living it.
Do it Together
If you ask or expect your youngsters to disengage in electronics for any period of time, plan to join them in the challenge. Start out by choosing one evening per week. Cook dinner together with music in the background. Play a board game before bed. Take a walk or a ball outside and stroll or play. Or perhaps you’ll all come up with something new and imaginative.
If that schedule is a success, it can always be expanded to a full day off. Maybe a weekend vacation from electronics can go on the calendar and be replaced with camping, going to the beach, or a number of activities you can all do together. It’s not what you do necessarily; it’s that you all agree to give the “virtual” a break and create some essential “real” memories together.
For other tips on maintaining best health for you and your family, check out DrDaveCampbell.com