MamaLA: On the Sore Subject of “Screen Time”


As the school year ends and summer begins, let’s face it: mamas are thinking about what the next few months are going to look like at home. Our kids are starting to gripe a bit as they drag themselves up and out to school, and we are eager for a much-needed break from drill sergeant mornings with assembly-line lunches and back-to-back chauffeuring gigs.  

For those of us with school-age kids and tweens/teens, in the coming weeks there will be some idle time and possibly less stringent rules about technology gadgets; you know, your iPhones, iPads, Wii, Nintendo, etc. In Soraya’s house, she’s got three tech-savvy kids. Even Yasmine’s three-year-old Maverick knows Buzz Lightyear can be found on “mama’s iPad”.  

With a few trips scheduled for summer, Soraya and her husband have already been thinking about how best to moderate “screen” time.  Friends have scared them with horror stories of teens texting away vacations, too engrossed in their Instagram or Snap Chat accounts to see Big Ben or enjoy a shared moment with Dad. It’s a new problem for our generation of parents; none of us grew up with portable technological distractions. We might not have been entertained enough during travel time to keep from asking our parents “Are we there yet?” for a 100th time, but at least we didn’t miss out on the dinosaurs on our way to Palm Springs.

To be clear, we are not anti-technology. We plan to share our favorite educational and fun Apps in future posts. For those of you who are, like us, wanting a little structure or rules to accompany technology on summer vacation, here is what we propose to do (bonus feature: almost all of these tips can be applied to summertime spent at home):

  1. When choosing your vacation spot, consider Internet access.  For Soraya’s family’s annual Cabo San Lucas vacation, there are no TVs and no WiFi access in their villa. Geography can work in your favor!
  2. Set a rule that technology can only be used inside and at night. Daytime is reserved for sightseeing, beach time, swimming, enjoying the outdoors—you decide. Leave those gadgets in the hotel room until your return. By that time, kids can welcome their digital toys with open arms and mamas and dads can get a little break or even a siesta.
  3. Consider having each family member make and share his/her own playlist of music prior to the trip. You might find that your taste in music is actually a little more in sync than you think. Getting your kids involved in what they are listening to might keep them less focused on what they’re not looking at (screens). 
  4. Pack along your favorite board and card games instead of video ones. Soraya’s kids love playing hours of UNO with Opa and Daddy poolside in Cabo. Even the little ones can start to understand the number values and for us, it been a fun rite of passage as each kid has gotten old enough to join in. Other great options are Apples to Apples, Trouble—even card games like Old Maid.  Many travel versions are easy to pack.
  5. Older tweens and teens may really start to miss their friends back home and feel like they are “missing out” which, of course, they are not. Perhaps consider allowing them to Facetime or chat via another app at an allotted and predetermined time.  
  6. Last but certainly not least, parents must practice what they preach. We are all guilty of this, but you’ve got to follow the same rules when it comes to technology on vacation or you will lose all credibility with your kids. We find this one can be particularly difficult for dads, so have that discussion in advance.  

We know how crazy we are during the school year, but these lazy summers with our children are fleeting. We’ll look back one day and wish we could get back all the moments stolen away by distractions (read: technology). So we’ve made it our goal this year to do a better job of being in the moment when our kids ask us to please swim with them for five more minutes or to, you guessed it, play one more game of UNO.

With seven children ranging in age from seven months to sixteen years between them, sisters and bloggers Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.