Ironically, the same digital devices that foster so much productivity and convenience also make it incredibly hard to relax on a family vacation. For no good reason, I hauled my laptop to the pool with me in Maui. I keep my cell phone within arm’s reach at all times even when I don’t need it. Did you know that the average person checks their cell phone 150 times per day? I’ve never counted but am likely part of that statistic.
Letting go of technology is difficult for me, but is something I need to improve upon when traveling and in daily life. I’m joining Cathay Pacific and a number of others around the world in a pledge to stay offline for just a day or perhaps even longer. Cathay Pacific’s #onedayoffline initiative is designed to highlight what many experts have been saying since the explosion of technology—moments become more meaningful when distractions are kept to a minimum.
Meaningful moments are the crux of a life well travelled. But, below are some of the many reasons why unplugging from technology on a family vacation or even a fun day out around town benefits the kids and your overall health.
1. For Most Families, Vacations Are Infrequent
Americans typically receive two weeks of annual holiday and a number of them, like my husband in his former working life as a young lawyer, don’t take all of it and even work on weekends. This means it’s incredibly important to make the most out of special days off when kids can benefit from devoted attention from mom and dad.
2. One Thing Leads to Another
Taking a peek at Facebook might lead to catching a status update you feel compelled to comment on or a headline to click on. And, before you know it the flood gates are open and screen time has spanned from the intended minute to an hour that you could have been playing Marco Polo in a hotel pool.
3. Forced Organization Equals More Free Time
Going offline requires some advanced planning. For example, in the days leading up to a vacation, I try hard to finish every single assignment due while I’m gone. This way, I don’t have to spend unnecessary time in the hotel room while my family is at the beach or my daughter kills time watching TV. It allows me to maximize every minute of leisure possible and ensure that fun family activities are on tap all day long.
4. Take Back Family Meals
Family meals have been touted for a long list of benefits ranging from an increased vocabulary in young kids to higher self-esteem to better grades at school. Vacations are the perfect time to ditch digital devices at mealtime. There’s typically no cooking to do, dishes to clean up, or rush to complete homework, giving the family a perfect time to connect in a relaxed way that is often not possible at home.
5. Recharge Relationships Instead of Devices
Let’s face it… raising kids is tough. We parents have to enforce discipline and go to battle with our kids to shape behaviors. Unplugging on family vacations and outings outside the home can often provide temporary relief from struggles at home and remind both parents and kids the family can and does have fun together.
6. Your Brain Truly Needs Rest
Health professionals are promoting tech-free vacations as a way to rest our brains. A well-rested brain leads to improved concentration, increased mental clarity, good sleep quality and more health benefits necessary to become a better parent.
7. Relaxation Moderates Mood
In line with a rested brain, relaxation is good for the soul regardless of age. It moderates mood fluctuations which helps families get along. It is difficult to relax when checking work emails every hour. Put on an email auto-responder to manage coworker and client expectations that you’ll respond… later.
8. You Can See the World Differently
As tempting as it may be to capture every moment on a camera phone, going offline will help the entire family actually see and enjoy what is happening without the stress of posing and posting to social media. In fact, I recently read that multitasking like this negatively impacts short term memory. And, I often miss real-life moments because I’m so focused on capturing them.
9. It Sets a Good Example
In an age where kids are on their digital devices for hours per day at times, show them that you can unplug, too. Kids are more important than checking email is, after all.
10. You Can’t Turn Back Time
Your kids will never be this age again. Life takes unexpected twists and turns. Enjoy every single minute you have with them to the fullest.
What will you do with a #onedayoffline?
*This post is written in partnership with Cathay Pacific, my favorite airline.