Feature image (above): It might seem impossible, but a digital detox is great for family bonding. // © 2017 iStock
You know the scene: People sit together but stare at their separate screens in silence, each in his or her own world. We all know we spend too much time looking at our devices, but just how harmful is it?
A 2016 survey by Common Sense Media found that 77 percent of parents feel their teenagers are distracted by devices and don’t pay attention when their family is together. And 41 percent of teens feel the same way about their parents.
For many families, the solution is a digital detox vacation, during which electronic devices are not allowed and there’s no Wi-Fi access or cellular service.
Without digital distractions, families can actually look at each other across the dinner table and converse. They can create memories that will stick with them longer than an Instagram post will.
When working with frazzled families, travel agents should not hesitate to suggest an unplugged family vacation.
Some trips are internet-free by design. Intrepid Travel offers several different Digital Detox trips — to Vietnam, India and Morocco — where cellphones and social media are not allowed.
“Travelers have become so focused on documenting each and every moment that they often forget to genuinely experience them,” said Leigh Barnes, North America director for Intrepid. “With these tours, we wanted to turn the focus back on making connections with our fellow travelers and the local people.”
Likewise, outdoor outfitter OARS recently launched the #100HoursUnplugged challenge, encouraging families to spend more time outdoors.
Other family vacations may end up internet-free by default. Cruises are known for their unreliable Wi-Fi — UnCruise Adventures doesn’t even offer it on most trips — so why not bill a family cruise as a digital detox vacation? There are so many other activities available that no one will miss their phones. A dude ranch vacation offers outdoor activities to help everyone forget their screens. Not all dude ranches are totally offline, though — many have Wi-Fi available in guestrooms.
And some places force this detox on families. For instance, Cuba is a hot destination right now, but internet access is spotty at best. Also, getting out into nature often means being out of range. Remote areas — such as outback Alaska, the deserts of Arizona and some stretches of Idaho, Montana and South Dakota — can be great offline destinations. Or, you could go even more secluded; in Fiji, you’re encouraged to “swap technology for tranquility.”
In years past, a lack of Wi-Fi might have been a hindrance, but these days, it can be a selling point. A digital detox vacation will provide family memories that last forever, even without an external hard drive.