Tanya Plibersek reveals her family's 'controversial' holiday rule

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

While many parents try in vain to minimise their children’s screen time whether it be mobile phones, tablets or TVs, Labor MP Tanya Plibersek has revealed she takes her restrictions to a whole new “controversial” level.

Discussing the problem of too much screen time for families on Channel Nine’s The Today Show, the politician revealed while she prohibits the use of phones at the dinner table, she also does so when the family spends time away from home.

“In our family [controlling screen time] is probably the biggest source of conflict, but it’s also something we have pretty strict rules about,” she told Georgie Gardner on Tuesday.

“We try and make sure we have screen free time as a family, sitting down to dinner together making sure the phones are well away from the table when you’re doing that.

Tanya Plibersek said she bans her kids from using phones while on holiday. Source: The Today Show

“We also try screen free holidays as well. That’s become a bit more controversial with the teenagers as they get older.”

Ms Plibersek said such moves means family members avoid detaching themselves from others while such restrictions also rub off on parents.

“It really doest give you time to reconnect. It forces us as adults to do a bit of a digital detox too,” she said.

Holiday digital detox justified, expert says

Psychologist and parenting expert Funda Yolal, who is the director of parenting support service Tiny Terrors, told Yahoo News Australia that Ms Plibersek’s decision is more than justified as long as it is delivered correctly.

“I don’t think it is a step too far, providing the family can follow through with this revelation. It has to be well thought out and planned however, and it also depends on how much technology the family is currently using,” she said.

Ms Yolal said it must be carefully planned to ensure the digital detox doesn’t feel like “a huge struggle” and parents must set a precedent themselves.

She advises parents to opt for specific time frames which intertwine with other activities to deliver a “more achievable” goal.

Ms Plibersek's children have challenged her decision to ban phones while on holiday. Source: Getty, file.

“For example, between 9-11am, and 5-7pm, iPhones and iPads are put away. It is important to have some activities set up to avoid temptation and children complaining that they are bored,” Ms Yolal said.

Ms Plibersek noted the ban was hardest to take for her teens – something that Ms Yolal completely understands.

“For teenagers there is the social aspect and all their friends are on social media,” she pointed out.

“Taking [their devices] away is seen as a punishment and unfair to them.”

Restricting screen time for children

Ms Yolal said Australia has a problem with the amount of screen time children are getting, and parents are reluctant to limit it as it often gives them a period of respite from caring for them.

Phones and screens at the dinner table is a big 'no no' for Tanya Plibersek. Source: Getty, file.

She stresses the importance of getting your gets outside and engaging in activities as a family.

“There is evidence that shows that being in nature boosts your mental and emotional wellbeing. Exercise levels, vitamin D exposure, creativity, and learning increase when in natural surroundings and away from technology,” she said.

“The rise in anxiety and depression in kids is unfortunate but real. It can be argued that there is a strong correlation with spending time indoors in front of technological devices and mental health disorders in children.”

The extent of the problem was highlighted for the Sydney-based psychologist when a mother at one of her sessions informed her she was purchasing a six-month-old baby an iPad for Christmas.

“My eyes almost popped out of my head. And we wonder why, when this child gets to 4, why they are ‘addicted’ to technology,” she said.

“Stripping back from toys and technology helps your family spend more time together, have more meaningful interactions, helps with family members feel happier and more connected.”

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