3 Ways to Keep Teens Phone-Free on Vacation

Posted Travel Tips by Janice Sakata-Schultze on March 3, 2015

“Your time is up!”

I probably use this phrase more than any other with my two teenage and tween kids. Am I telling them to come inside after an intense competitive one-on-one basketball matchup? Or telling them to close a classic novel they’ve absorbed themselves in for several hours?

Nope. For the umpteenth time, I’m telling them to get off their electronics du jour, whether it’s their phone, tablet, personal game device or the computer. This becomes even tougher to deal with on vacation.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

If you’re like me, you probably want to yank those things out of their hands and chuck them into the nearest trash receptacle or moving body of water. Of course, that won’t help your teens appreciate the beautiful surroundings of your vacation destination. So follow these strategies to keep them connected with you, and not so much their devices.

1) Go cold turkey

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This plan is not for the faint of heart, but it give you the guarantee that your kids will be device-free. Leaving their phones and play consoles at home would be easiest on a kind of vacation where reception is spotty or nonexistent. These include camping trips in the deep wilderness or overseas travel, where cellular service could be inconsistent and pricey.

One of the best replacement activities they could do instead of having their eyes glued to a screen is journaling. Encourage them to write in a notebook about the things they see on their travels. If they don’t like to write, allow them to have a camera or camcorder and take pictures or movies instead. At the end of the day, ask them to share what they’ve documented and talk about the background or story of the places visited.

2) Designate screen time hours…and stick to them

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Using this strategy may be the most palatable option for families with electronic-dependent teens. Right from the start of your vacation, set a firm rule that the kids will have certain hours to spend on devices. Set a time of two hours maximum, stating that because the family is on vacation, it’s the time to focus on being on vacation.  

You may still encounter some resistance with your kids if they want to text their friends constantly. Here’s where your firm parent persona may need to take over. Instead of being punitive or getting caught in an endless argument loop, employ some empathy tactics and acknowledge how they feel. Then state your preferences in a matter-of-fact way. They just might surprise you by following what you say.

3) Surprise: Ask for their input

Photo Courtesy of Dreamstime

If you feel that your kids have some measure of maturity, do what appears to be the most astonishing thing and ask them what the plan should be. Chances are, your kids could come up with a fairly reasonable idea for device usage on your trip. Who knows, they may even get more involved with your family vacation than you realize.

Have patience when you try to implement the device-free or nearly device-free vacation. When your kids see that you’re happy and interested in being there, they are more likely to follow your lead.