Plain sailing

Want to unplug your screen-addicted child? Plan a cruise holiday, says Flight Centre.

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What topped your children’s holiday wish list this past holiday? Chances are it has a screen, is linked to social media, or is a game of sorts.
Whether your little angel is a toddler or teen, most parents are desperate to reduce their children’s screen time, especially during holidays. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.
One option is to go ‘cold turkey’ and take away all cell phones and devices completely, but this might not be the best solution, says Occupational Therapist Carla Grobler. Nor should children have unlimited screen time. “It’s important to set clear limits,” says Grobler, adding that too much screen time has far-reaching consequences including decreased vision, anxiety, insomnia and the inability to form interpersonal relationships.
Another great option is to take your family on an exciting family trip. “The secret to limiting screen time is finding the perfect holiday that focuses on activities for the kids so they’re entertained and not even thinking about their devices,” says Marieke Tucker, General Manager of Flight Centre Retail Brands. “A cruise is the perfect antidote to device time. It’s also the type of holiday that can be enjoyed by kids of various ages with different interests.”
South African and international parenting bloggers agree that cruise holidays are particularly family friendly and appeal to children of all ages.
“My first cruise was with my husband from Durban to the Portuguese Islands and although we loved the special time together I couldn’t help but think the whole time how much my kids would have loved the experience too!” says Kathryn Rossiter, author of lifestyle blog Becoming You. “From the excitement of boarding the huge cruise liner to the unique way of staying in cabins, the super fun swimming decks, not to mention the endless pizza slices available almost 24 hours a day! I really love cruising as a family friendly holiday,” says Rossiter.
Cathy Winston, author of popular blog Mummy Travels, explains that cruising is perfect if you want a stress-free holiday with younger kids: “Trying to pack in several destinations with little ones is a recipe for stress. With a cruise, you're not constantly unpacking and repacking, there are great facilities on board and you get to explore in a baby-friendly way.”
Mealtimes are fun!
A hungry toddler may have most parents reaching for a device quicker than you can say ‘iPad’ to distract them. But a cruise ship will meet your culinary needs. Winston explains: “There's food being served somewhere almost 24/7 on the bigger ships, so you don't need to worry about children's mealtimes coinciding with restaurant openings. Plus, there's usually at least one buffet including kids' favourites. Because food is included, it's easy to pick up a snack or a small plate without worrying about wasting money if your toddler doesn't want a full-size meal... or takes one bite and refuses the rest!”
Sarah Dirsuwei, author of the blog Chasing the Rainbow and mom to three teenagers, explains she loves the fact that cruising is all-inclusive. “We don’t have to micro-manage what our permanently hungry and thirsty teens are drinking and eating. We know upfront exactly what our holiday will cost us and don’t have to worry about converting every drink into rands.”
Keep boredom at bay
Kids are miserable when they’re bored and will immediately turn to their devices as a boredom buster. “Make sure the cruise ship you’ve selected offers a wide variety of activities to keep your kids entertained. Some ships will offer such activities as ice-skating, bowling, rock climbing, trampoline jumping, surfing, miniature golf, and basketball courts. In addition, choose a ship where a wide variety of kids’ and teen programmes and activities take place daily and at regular times” says Marieke.
Kids themselves agree that there’s no time to be bored on a ship. Kate (10) told us she liked everything about her Disney Cruise experience from the island excursions to the water slides on the ship and the kids club. Mauritz (7) ditched his device in favour of the play room on the cruise.
Freedom to make friends
The freedom most parents had as children to spend unlimited time outdoors with friends has sadly become a thing of the past. “At sea, kids relish the onboard freedom a cruise offers. They can hang out with new friends or participate in organised activities without any hassle or danger,” says Marieke.
Rossiter agrees and says the great thing is you only unpack once and then you’re free to choose from all the activities on board to keep all ages entertained and spend fun family time together. “We love exploring new places together as a family so shore excursions are a must for us, but the beauty of the age appropriate kids’ clubs means that parents can also have a break while kids make new friends and enjoy the activities on offer with them.”
Children tend to have so much fun on cruises, they are unlikely to ask for any screen time at all. Make sure you plan some things to do together as a family, and remember that you set the example when it comes to screen time. So, step away from your device, enjoy your holiday as a family and make real ‘face-to-face’ memories that will last a lifetime.

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