Why your phone shouldn't be part of the family holiday

The sky is streaked with tangerine as the sun sets over the ocean.

We dine with our toes in the sand on freshly caught tuna, sipping chablis, as the children eat pasta paired with homemade lemonade. They conspire to steal the recipe for their lemonade stand at the school fete the following month.

It's one of those memories I want to put in my pocket, like a smooth stone, to remind me of the simple bliss of a family holiday. 

We're all happy, until we look around, outside our bubble. 

Every single diner is glued to his or her mobile phone. One woman – from the fashion pages of a glossy magazine – is increasingly angered by her fiance doing deals on the phone during dinner: she eventually storms out.

Much is written of children's addiction to electronic devices. But it's adults who have the issue, according to new research from the Holiday Inn group, gathered from travellers across Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

More than half of holidaymakers have to work while on holiday, with only one in 10 able to completely "turn off'. "In today's 'always on, always connected' world travellers find it challenging to truly disengage from work," it finds.

This is especially upsetting for children.

One in 10 kids say their parents "always" work on holidays. And almost a quarter (23 per cent) say they feel "sad", because they want to spend time with us.

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I wonder whether we really need to check emails on holidays? Or are we deluding ourselves into feeling indispensable?

When the children were little and I was rebuilding my career,  I remember sneaking into hotel business centres or internet cafes in the dead of night, as if conducting an illicit affair. (Memo hubby: I only cheated on you with Mack. I mean, Mac.)

Interestingly, the survey finds women (61 per cent) are more disciplined than men (38 per cent) at hiding "holiday work" until after the children are in bed.

Advances in mobile technology make it easier for us to work anywhere. But surely we can tie up loose ends before a family break? 

Nowadays, I relish secreting the iPad in the safe, and leaping straight into the pool. It's lovely to – literally and figuratively – switch off, and direct your energy to those you love most. 

Sure, the phone is the perfect foil if they're chucking a tantrum, and you're pretending they're someone else's children. (We've all been there ...)

But friends with older kids remind me that they're not young for long.

It's important to make every moment count.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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