Parents of young children in the UAE may have to stock up on colouring books before their next long-haul flight, as tablets are among the devices being banned from cabins on some destinations from the US and the UK to the Middle East.
The days when flying meant an opportunity to gaze at the clouds out the window or finish a book, are long gone, and many travellers – particularly younger ones – are used to whiling away the hours on an iPad.
But Amanda Tinnin, an American parent coach based in Abu Dhabi, said parents should see the ban as “very much an opportunity” to drop their reliance on gadgets.
“Everyone is freaking out, its hilarious, but I think we should take a positive slant. Hands-on activities and communication should definitely be encouraged.”
When she is packing her bags, Ms Tinnin allows her four year-old son to pick up to seven of his toys to play with en-route.
Keri Hedrick, a British travel blogger at ourglobetrotters.com who flies regularly with her three children, aged 7, 4 and 2, advised parents to mix a few old and new toys in their bags, to keep the journey interesting and exciting for their kids.
“Always save a few toys in your own bag to surprise them with later in the flight, as well as perhaps an exciting snack or treat to reward behaviour,” she suggested.
There is alsoalways the inflight entertainment system to keep the kids in their seats. But Nisrin Arsiwala, an Indian mother based in Dubai, said she “doesn’t quite approve” of the on-flight screen offerings on most flights.
“It’s expensive - Dh35 is the usual price for most of the flights, and the choice is limited, particularly for girls.”
Ms Arsiwala said her eight year-old daughter is going to be “super upset” with the thought of not having her “buddy”, as she calls her iPad, with her on their next flight.
“She uses it to watch movies, play games and also use some apps for drawing and colouring.”
But Ms Tinnin claimed parents should not worry about their children becoming bored en-route, as it might do them some good.
“Boredom is key to the inner life of the child. It helps them decide what they want to become, because the imagination flourishes,” said Mr Tinnin.
Not every parent was bemoaning the new ruling.
“I for one don’t need a tablet on a flight,” said Ashleigh Roebuck, a South African mother of two children, aged 7 and 5.
“There’s the inflight entertainment with loads of cartoons on it. I take books to read, colouring books for the kids, and before you know it, we’ve landed.”
The Egyptian Mohammed Salama, a former royal security official and Abu Dhabi-based farmer, is the parent of a two year-old daughter and a baby daughter born on Wednesday.
“If it’s for security reasons, I don’t mind at all following these rules to protect us,” he said. “I have a brother studying in the US and I want him to be safe too. I have a security background and I know that there are so many new technologies is coming in, which makes it really hard to safeguard against the terrorists.”
Mr Salama, who plans to fly in the coming months with his two daughters, said he was not worried about finding a solution to keep them entertained.
“Maybe we’ll give her a book, a game or a doll to play with. I’m not allowing my daughter to use any devices anyway, we’re teaching her the old school way. It damages cells in children’s brains. I see it in my kid’s friends who don’t sleep unless they have their devices in their hands.”