Should Kids Use Electronics While RVing?
If your kids are anything like ours, they love their electronics! After getting home from school and completing any homework, the first thing they want to do is get on an electronic device. They regularly use and play on a game console, computers, laptops, tablets or phones while at home. Most days, our children will use at least two of these devices a day. Simply put, we have very modern kids that want to be on electronics.
What about when it is time to travel? Since we are also a family that loves to RV in our Jayco just about every other weekend and have been doing so for many years, we have set some ground rules for electronics with our children. We understand every family is different, but we felt it might be useful to share our views on our kids’ usage of their electronics while RVing from our unique perspective. Hint: The answer is "yes" for us, but within reason.
When to Use Electronics and Limitations
As a teacher in public education for close to two decades, I have witnessed the rise of electronics from one shared desktop in my classroom to every student having their own personal Chromebook. Now, with easier access to a device for each child, kids are plugged in more frequently. I have found most tasks in school are computer based on the perspective of our little world. So now more than ever, children need to take breaks from electronics, especially on the weekends.
This is why it is important to set limitations when camping with our modern, technologically savvy kids. They unplug, but within reason. For example, most days camping, we are super active hiking, canoeing, biking, fishing, etc. We go on 6, 7, 8-mile hikes with them up some pretty tough trails even for some adults. When we return to the RV, it's time to relax and unwind. We have found this is the perfect time to allow our kids to take a break and jump on a table or phone to play a game for a bit. They even tell us this simple gesture gives them the desire to want to do a challenging hike again.
If devices are a reward, the question then becomes: how long should you let your children play on electronics while RVing? We feel like this is a personal family decision. To give you an idea of the length of time we let our kids play on devices, this is what our typical RV day looks like.
The kids wake up, play on their devices a bit until breakfast is ready and Alison and I have had some coffee. Then, we usually hit the trail pretty early (around sunrise) or do another physical morning activity. On most days, we get back to our Jayco before noon and relax a bit. The kids are allowed to get on their devices and play.
Often, we eat lunch together around noon either inside or outside depending on the weather or how we feel that day. Typically, the kids will play outside for a couple of hours after lunch playing ball, riding bikes and making up whatever games come to mind. Much of that time Alison and I will play catch or get involved with the kids. Sometimes, we like to just sit out and watch under the awning. After two or three hours the kids go inside and take an electronic break.
In the late afternoon, Alison and I get the craving to explore more, so it's "active time" again. This can be exploring a short trail, walking along the shore of a lake to find a good fishing spot or renting a canoe to look for wildlife on the water. This usually takes a couple of hours. When dinner prep time rolls around and we are getting food ready, it's time for another electronic break.
Most of the time I'll include the kids in the building of a campfire if it's a meal that requires one, but we tend to mix it up when it comes to cooking meals. Sometimes we'll use wood, sometimes it will be charcoal, other times I use the propane stove inside the RV, and I'll even use a small, portable grill, too. The kids can continue to use electronics during this time if we feel their help isn't needed such as when we are using propane to cook. When dinner time rolls around, devices are turned off and board games come out. It's full-on family time!
Driving to a Site:
Because we have regularly gone on road trips for many years, the novelty of playing road games such as "slug bug" and the "license plate game" wore off long ago. Now, we allow our kids to use devices while in the truck heading to our camping destination a decent chunk of the time. This doesn't mean they are on phones and tablets the entire trip especially if it is an all-day drive. It means we allow our kids to use their devices for a chunk of time, then they take a break so their eyes can get a rest and focus on things outside the vehicle, take a nap, draw something, read a book or play Mad Libs (which are highly recommended). You have to decide what is the best amount of time for your kids to be on electronics, but we try to keep it to less than half the total drive time unless educational games are involved.
Video Games vs Educational Games
We have found when most kids we know want to get on devices, typically they choose to watch YouTube or play video games over engaging in educational games and apps. Our kids are no different. When on the road, we like to make sure our kids are still mentally active and growing. I'm not talking about doing hardcore algebra equations or writing essays to stay active. Think more in the area of coding, gamified math review activities or mental puzzles. By allowing kids to use devices for things other than just watching funny videos or at the other extreme drill-and-kill math questions, they will learn to grow their minds in other ways. For instance, our oldest son Preston loves to code in several computer languages and our youngest son enjoys researching video editing techniques for his YouTube channel.
How to Deal with Electronic Breaks While RVing
Going back to what I mentioned earlier regarding how long your child should be on a device, that is something you really need to discuss as a family. One thing you should absolutely set as a firm rule is how you deal with the lengths of electronic breaks. Even though the data on how long a child should be using a device varies somewhat based on the study conducted, we know that younger children should not be on electronics as much as older children. Definitely make sure your little ones take those breaks to avoid potential eye and brain development issues. Set a timer too.
Social Connection for Kids
It's safe to say, as our kids have gotten older, they seem to want to be connected with their friends even more. Whether it's hanging out at a buddy's house or gaming together virtually, our kids seek that social interaction. What do you do about fulfilling that need for social connection while RVing?
Some locations we have camped at don't always have reliable cellular internet or WiFi, but many places do. While driving, it's very hit-or-miss on the back roads near small towns, but we almost always can get a signal on the freeway. When on our way to a campground, the kids are allowed to connect with friends whenever they are able to during their allotted electronic time. This rule is the same when they are on a "break" from family time at a campground.
Being able to connect digitally with friends while RVing has made our kids want to continue traveling as often as we do since they are still in a sense hanging out with their friends while away.
Like I stated earlier, our family’s view on electronics might be different than yours. Our kids have been RVing while staying super active for seven years and are also getting older. If you don't know, older children have different wants and needs than younger children. We want them to find a good balance of using electronics and enjoying the outdoors for many years to come. I hope this article helps guide you with your electronic RVing family decisions.