8 tricks to get your kids off their phones and spend family time this Raya

  • Children
  • Wednesday, 06 Jul 2016

Low-tech games can be a lot of fun too and can get the whole family involved.

Family time is precious especially during the Raya break. This is also a great time to recharge and connect with your kids, but connecting can be tough if they’re plugged into their electronic devices day and night.

Ever try to point out the sights to a kid engaged in battle on their smartphones or have a heart-to-heart with a teen whose ears are stuffed with earphones?

We’ve all become tangled when it comes to media and technology in our daily lives (step away from your iPad, parents). This festive season can be a time to unplug or at least limit the time you spend wired, in the interest of having more face time with the people you love.

Here are some strategies for striking a balance between family bonding and electronic engagement:

Leave it at home

You can’t be distracted by what you don’t bring. Chances are, even if you don’t bring your own tablet or laptop, you’ll be able to use one at the home of someone you’re visiting, or you and the kids can make an adventure of finding an internet cafe to use for an hour. You’d still have your smartphone for looking up restaurant reviews for dinner or tomorrow’s weather forecast.

Or, you can take it with you

The upside of bringing a laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone is watching movies on the plane or in a car and having fun apps to play. This is great for passing the time to avoid boredom – but it’s a good idea to decide on the appropriate time and place for screen time.

Follow the inside/outside rule

Try something like this: Tech is OK only at the house and only at night. Daytime is for playing with the cousins, visiting family or just chatting with grandparents, so leave screens and devices back in the room.

Low-tech games can be a lot of fun too and can get the whole family involved.
Low-tech games can be a lot of fun too and can get the whole family involved.

Share your playlist

Make music sharing a family activity. Have everyone in the family download a personal playlist to share with the group in the car or where you’re staying. Kids can turn parents on to the music they love. Parents can expose kids to oldies from their era or programme music to fit the locale. Sing-alongs are allowed and encouraged.

Get a local media fix

Instead of individual family members plugging into separate devices for an isolated film-viewing experience with headphones, go on a family outing to a theatre near where you’re staying. It’s fun to share the experience with the locals.

Get off the phone

It would be ideal – but maybe not realistic – to put phones on lockdown. How about establishing a few rules that your family can agree on, such as “No texting during outings,” “Phones are only for taking pictures until 6pm,” “Apps only in the car,” or “Daytime is family time, friends are for after dinner”? Or save some money on data and screens are only when there is WiFi.

Friendly fire

Kids get homesick for their friends when they’re out of town. Respect their desire to send vacation photos from their phones or via Whatsapp, upload pictures to Instagram, chat on Facebook, or digitally communicate face to face via Skype. But taking a break from texting throughout the day is a good way to be here now; tell kids that if they’re glued to their device, they’re stepping out of the group experience, which shows a lack of courtesy to those around them (the family in “family vacation”). Agree on a time it’s OK to contact friends, say, on a lazy afternoon when other family members are reading or napping, or after dinner.

Pack family games instead of video games

Kids love playing games like boardgames, Uno, or regular card games – all of which fit easily in a suitcase. Find games that are great for the road, try Charades and get the whole family involved, and it requires no equipment at all. Unplug, and plug into fun with humans! – Common Sense Media/Tribune News Service

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