Last summer, my family went on a cruise that charged a fee for wi-fi on top of the extra fee charged by our phone plan. After much consideration, I decided not to purchase the wi-fi plan. As you can imagine, that did not go over well with my kids. There was a lot of grumbling and complaining, but I stood firm. For the entire week, no one in the family used cell phones.
I’ll admit that, at first, I felt some anxiety about my decision. Not having a cell phone plan or wi-fi would mean that I couldn’t text my kids, and I would not have any connection to the rest of the world.
Other than going “old school” with planning times to meet up, it turned out to be a wonderful experience. We enjoyed our vacation in the present, without being distracted by electronic devices. It was worth it. At least for me.
This summer, our vacation destination came with free wi-fi. I considered restricting my kids’ phone use, but I decided to wait and see how they managed. Also, if I set restrictions, then I’d have to oversee the follow through and that would interfere with my goal of relaxing on vacation.
After the first full day, it became clear that my teens were unable to self-regulate.
They were not interacting with the family and they were missing out on activities. With eyes glued to their screens, they were unaware of the beauty around them.
During that first day, I noticed other teens also glued to their electronic devices. One boy was typing on his phone as he was walking, unable to keep pace with the rest of his family. I heard his mom lose it. “Give me that damn phone right now!” she screamed. His mother was clearly upset and from her tone, it was not the first time she had to speak to him about it.
I struggled with finding a compromise for my own kids. Obviously, they wanted to use their phones without limits, but I believed they were missing out on our family vacation. I tried to see it from their point of view, thinking back to when I was a teenager and how I missed my friends when I was on family vacations. I know how important friends are to teens, so I wanted my kids to be able to maintain those connections while also being present for our vacation. Maybe, for them, vacation means using their phones whenever they want.
I discussed all of this with them and we agreed on a compromise. They could use their phones when they wanted, with the understanding that they would also make an effort to participate in family activities.
For the rest of our vacation they did limit their phone use, although there were still times when I needed to intervene or point out the amount of time they had been using their phone.
I’m not sure what the right answer is in this situation since I have nothing to compare it to. I didn’t have cell phones and electronic devices when I was growing up, so I’m learning how to manage problems as we go. But, honestly, the family cruise when we didn’t use our phones at all felt more like a vacation to me.
Right now, I’m considering planning another phone-free vacation for next year. Maybe one day my kids will look back and realize they were grateful for the times when they had to put their phones down and enjoy the scenery. A mom can hope, right?