You’ve finally got the whole family together for a Myrtle Beach vacation, and you feel like you are on a trip with a bunch of zombies. The blank stares and unanswered questions are the result of the cell phones, iPads and hand-held video games that can captivate kids and some adults in a land of make-believe instead of experiencing the joy of vacation. You don’t want the trip to turn into a week-long electronics session, so it’s time to set a few ground rules about unplugging from virtual reality and reconnecting with family members by making some real vacation memories:
- Lead by example. It’s hard to convince your kids to put away the electronics when you won’t do the same. Sure, you may need to keep a phone handy in case of family emergencies or work-related issues, but keep it at the bare minimum so the rest of the family doesn’t rebel. It’s also your responsibility to show them how to enjoy a good, old-fashioned Myrtle Beach vacation like the kind you grew up with, like a family fishing trip or a visit to some of the older attractions downtown. Your kids weren’t around back then so it’s up to you to show them.
- Set the rules at the start of the trip and follow through. Let them know in advance that a violation of the electronics rule will result in a loss of privileges. Whether it’s one hour a day or only at night, establish specific times for limited phone usage. Make sure it’s a realistic time frame for your kids to chat with friends back home or play video games, but stand firm against the mindless, time-wasting practice of blankly staring at their cell phones. If they are following the rules and interacting with the family, throw them a bone by letting them use their electronics during a rain storm or other down time.
- Replace their electronic devices with a book. Remember the summer reading lists you had as a child, and how some of those books are forever connected with certain childhood memories? Your kids are growing up in a different world where books are considered antiques. But the computer age doesn’t offer the same level of concentration and imagination, not when they can watch the movie version on their cell phones. Pick out the perfect book for each child’s age and gender, or allow them to pick out a book they would like to read. By spending their time broadening their minds instead of pushing buttons, they might even develop a new passion for reading.
- Get away from the modern world, even if it’s only for one day, and show your kids the wonders of nature on the Grand Strand. Take an all-day trip to Myrtle Beach State Park, Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach State Park or the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Center, or explore the water with a deep-sea fishing or dolphin-watching cruise, a kayak or canoe trip down the Waccamaw River, or a jet-ski adventure through the ocean and backwaters. Such adventures may open your kids eyes to beauty of nature that exists outside the cell phone screen.
- You might have to collect all the electronics and keep them under lock and key to prevent your kids from sneaking a quick session. You might not be able to keep them completely away from their phones, but you can control their usage by keeping the charger cords. Without the power to recharge their phones, they have only a limited amount of time they can operate them before having to come to you for some juice. Stay firm and make sure you get some quality vacation time with your kids without a cell phone in their faces.