How My Son's Dying iPhone Saved Our Vacation

Instead of his usual plugged-in state, he spent much of the vacation reading books, playing silly games with his siblings and, wait for it... actually talking to us at dinner.
04/21/2014 10:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A really interesting thing happened over our recent spring break; an accidental experiment in unplugging from social media.

We were traveling to The Caribbean with our three kids ages 12, 7 and 4. Being from Chicago, we were all in need of a little sun and sand after an especially brutal and long winter.

In advance of the trip, my eldest asked if we would consider getting him a Lifeproof case for his iPhone. He thought it would be fun to take pictures and videos of his brother and sister in the pool underwater. That made some sense to us, and we agreed that it could make for great memories. We purchased the case for him.

Down to vacation we go. Snap! On goes the Lifeproof case. We perform the suggested water test, and into the pool he goes. Pow! That was the end of the phone. Water immediately leaked in and the phone never turned on again.

Now, this could be a post about what a poorly-designed product the case is, but, in fact, that is not what I'm writing about. (Although, buyer beware of Lifeproof.)

Actually, what truly surprised us was what happened to our 12-year-old over the course of the next seven days of our vacation. Aside from the initial five minutes after the phone died (in which the ground shook and I think some windows cracked), our son never mentioned his phone again. This, coming from the King of Generation text, where a trip to the dentist is texted and a photo montage is posted on Instagram.

Instead of his usual plugged-in state, he spent much of the vacation reading books, playing silly games with his siblings and, wait for it... actually talking to us at dinner. Normally when we're on vacation and he and his siblings are done eating, he'll leave the table to text with friends or check sports scores ( I understand that not many kids want to sit through a leisurely meal on vacation). The younger two will normally play tag or some other game close to where we are seated. But with no phone, there was no pull to check in with his friends or to look at the latest Instagram posts (whether from his classmates or even LeBron James). Instead, our almost-13-year-old played tag with his 4-year-old sister, chased iguanas with his 7-year-old brother and entertained them while we finished our meals. Their fun was something right out of the 1970s, and it was quite amazing to see!


Once or twice, he mentioned wishing that he had his phone to take a photo, but in the end, he just used mine. He got the pictures he wanted, spent time with his much younger siblings and had conversational dinners with mom and dad. At the end of the trip, when we asked him about the lack of phone, he admitted it was nice to have a break from the constant chatting and checking in with friends.

I'm not saying I would intentionally hope his phone dies again, but it did give us time to reflect as to whether or not we should make leaving the kid's cell phones at home as part of the spring break contract. Or, at the very least, severely curtailing phone usage on vacation.

Has something similar happened to you and your family? I would love to know your thoughts on the matter and if this was too good to be true.

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Chrissy Jones is a born and bred NYC girl who successfully transplanted to Chi-Town. As the founder of Beyond the Park, she loves writing about the best of kid-friendly Chicago. She lives with her three kids Big (12 yr old boy), Middle (7 yr old boy) & Little (4 yr old girl) and her husband in the Gold Coast. Follow Chrissy on Twitter