Thursday, 14 September 2017

Our Tech-Free Family Camping Holiday

We went on a family camping trip this summer. Usually, we look for a holiday place that includes WiFi, but this summer our teen (now 17) decided he’d rather not join us. I had an idea and shared my plan with my husband. Why don’t we have a completely technology free holiday!

I didn’t necessarily think we need to get away from tech, or that it was specifically a digital detox holiday, but rather we were going camping and the stress of keeping tech safe and charged wasn’t something I wanted to deal with on our holiday.

We sat down with our younger boys, aged 6 and 9 to discuss our plan. We didn’t want them to see it as a punishment. At first, they didn’t really like the idea. Their arguments included;‘What about the times we’ll be waiting with nothing else to do?’ and ‘What about downtime after a busy day playing outside?’ and ‘What if the weather isn’t great and we can’t go outside?’. We talked about having more time for other activities and learning to find something else to do when we’re bored rather than default to playing games or watching videos on devices.

They eventually agreed to give it a go. However, they were very concerned that the rules of 'no devices' should also apply to the parents! Rightly so.

As we were camping abroad and had to do a lot of driving, we agreed that our tech would only be used for navigation, taking photos and emergency calls.

A week later...

We had a fantastic time! I don’t think we would have had time for gaming, videos or social media. The kids didn't ask for the devices once. (It helped that we didn't even take any as a back-up!) My husband and I had to consciously not check social media or emails, but we soon got into the groove.

It was wonderful to be slightly ‘cut off’ from the world and enjoy special family time. We played games, went to the beach, rode our bikes, cooked food outside, swam, made up stories each evening, coloured pictures and listened to audio books in the car during our long drives.


The day we returned from our trip, the boys asked if they could play games on their devices!

Three days later we went on another camping trip. This time the boys told us - “We’re going camping, remember it’s tech-free!”

Top Tips to Take Your Own Tech Free Holiday

  1. Talk about it - don’t just announce it! Involve the kids in thinking about what a tech free holiday means. Don’t make them feel like it is a punishment. 
  2. Keep the rules the same for everyone. It’s not fair if someone in the family can take tech and use it and not others. Agree on exceptions to the rules, like using a smartphone as a navigator, camera and making emergency calls.
  3. Make it an activity. Not every holiday has to be tech free. Like any activity, there is a start and end time.
  4. Leave the devices at home. Don’t be tempted to bring them along just in case the kids can't behave. Only take the essential tech and keep to the rules!
  5. Focus on family time. Use the time to play together as a family. Card games, sport, walking, learning a new skill, anything really so long as you can do it together.

Final Thoughts

I do believe there is a place for a tech-free time and being unplugged from the connected world. This is especially true as kids get older and increasingly feel the need to be plugged in and connected.

We don’t want our kids to think that tech and being connected is bad. We want them to think about how they engage with technology and consider the time they spend on it.

Building in activities that are screenless, be that for an hour, a day or a week's holiday, means kids learn they don’t need to be connected all the time and CAN find other things to do. (Warning this may need parental input!)

Recently there’s been articles in the media about families enforcing a digital detox (a period of time without tech).

It’s definitely much easier to do this when the kids are young. Telling a teen who’s had unprohibited access to their tech and internet they need to give up their mobile for one day every week, is much harder.

I know, I have a teen who’s very difficult to drag away from his tech!

Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I am trying to help my younger boys develop healthier habits around tech usage. There's a big difference between passive and creative tech-use/screen-time, but there is also a place for both in our modern life.

We all like a bit of passive browsing or gaming or Youtube - it's just finding the balance that works for your family!

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