By Geetanjali Padoshi

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Once again it’s the time of the year. As I sat with a glass of nimbu sharbat to quell the heat wave of humid Mumbai’s April heat, thoughts pooled in. It’s holiday time. No more school, schedules, homework, and studies. The perfect time to relax. Yes, indeed, happy time for kids. But what about parents? Well, we parents are faced with a new challenge that is twofold.

Convincing the teens that visiting the ancestral town is a yearly ritual that allows one to connect with our roots, families, and relatives is a task in itself. The other one is to prevent a digital device usage overload that is met with resistance from the start.

Last summer, I faced this aversion to summer holiday trips for the first time. This made me aware of my child entering her teens and the rugged path I had to tread upon now. The whining about why the trip to grandparents’ house or the ancestral village is mandatory started a week before the actual holidays. That set the tone for things to come – whining, denying, complaining, throwing tantrums, emotional overpressing, slipping in information about friends’ plans for movie night, games night, binge teen drama watching, and examples of sacrifices already being made to be an obedient child.

I tried to remember my time and if I exhibited any of this at the same age. Well, the generation gap does bring in changes.

The green signal to embark on the journey came with conditions like allowing a set number of hours of digital usage, keeping in touch with friends, getting the desired food treats, and no sleep schedule insistence. Finally, the day of the journey dawned. The road trip consisted of we parents alternating the driving for the stretch of 400 km and our daughter busy with her mobile giving updates by the second.

Once settled in the ancestral house, we got busy catching up with the elderly and basking in the warmth of childhood memories.

My daughter was glued to her device for the first 2-3 days as expected. Then one evening she got an invitation to help the girls from the society in making a rangoli for a function. The initial rejection to participate changed to a coerced inclusion, courtesy of the new friends. We were asked to keep certain snacks ready as this activity was supposed to last for 20 minutes max. While I reveled in the fact that my child participated in a community activity, it soon changed to worry and foreboding thoughts of her having some issues when she did not return for the next two hours. With trepidation, I went to the society gate and to my sheer surprise found my daughter in an animated conversation with her friends about the color scheme of the design. Her oh-so-precious mobile was nowhere in sight. The remainder of the day went in explaining to her grandparents her experience and the digital companions were easily forgotten.

The following day I found my daughter up early in the day. She had plans with her new friends that included a storytelling session for the younger ones, craft activities, and a visit to an old fort. For a week she did not have any time for her digital devices that were completely left out in her new regime of the days. Yes, they were fetched only when she had to take pictures or put reels of her activities much to the surprise of her friends back home.

The days progressed and I found the whining, fussy lass of mine busy in planning and plotting the next excursion to the nearby sightseeing spots, introducing the kids to games that they didn’t know like Waevboarding and relishing the local delicacies and seasonal fruits rather than the home deliveries that she swore by back home.

She also attended many small house functions and warmed up to the simplistic celebrations and community eating rather than insisting on having food in front of the TV or tablet.

The digital devices did get their share of the limelight when she introduced others like her grandparents and her friends to the new world of Artificial intelligence. The power of the new age technology memerised the old folks.

The nights spent in the company of her grandparents reminiscing about our childhood tales and goof-ups, a life before the advent of technology, a life before the internet made her realize the importance of human connection.

As our holiday neared its end, I could see a sad demeanor and reluctance to return to our abode. My teenage daughter had formed some deep bonds in a short span and learned the importance of simplicity and being content with small things.
I could not have asked for a better way to spend her vacation. My intent of giving her digital detox was successful so much so that it made her realise the life outside the shackles of digital dominance. She learned that technology is not the end but the means of achieving anything.

As I was remembering the events of last summer, I wondered whether another trip to the hinterland would be on the cards this year. My train of thought was interrupted when my daughter came home running from the last day of school before the summer holidays.
“Aai – when are we planning the trip to aaji’s place?” – she asked. This question sounded music to my ears and brought a smile to my face that resonated with the excitement and hope on hers

So when are you planning the digital detox for your teens?