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How to avoid digital overdrive on the family road trip

“When travelling with someone, take large doses of patience and tolerance with your morning coffee.”— Helen Hayes (Now double it if you have kids – Habyts).

The family getaway. Nothing but relaxing, family bonding and sunshine to look forward to….HA. We wish.

To future parents, please note that family trips away will now consist of the following:

  • Your kids moaning when their device dies
  • Teens begrudgingly agreeing to participate in family activities
  • Only one family photo you actually all agree you like.

And this…

But if you’re anything like us, here at Habyts, you also loathe the thought of your kids spending hours staring at a screen while you have to handle genuine logistics like travel.

So here is what you do.

#1 Set each member of the family a challenge

Sure, we could have said, “fill the time by playing i-Spy or singing the song that never ends”. But those games get pretty boring pretty quickly. Good luck trying to convince tweens and teens to play along for more than five minutes!

Of course, there are other educational games you could try. Making words or practising your times’ tables from passing number plates or playing the word association game throughout the alphabet. Again, though, it will only last so long.

We’re not saying don’t do these things. We’re saying make a challenge out of them. Make the car journey fun again. Give each child their own challenge that they have to complete without anyone else in the car knowing the whole time you are travelling. The suspense and intrigue will keep them more occupied than just playing the standard car journey games.

RELATED: Seeking screen-free activities to keep the kids entertained?

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#2 Start engaging your kids in conversation

The car journey is one of the best times to talk to teenagers and tweens about issues you might want to raise as parents. Have they been asked to ‘sext’? What kind of TV programmes are they watching at the moment? What’s their favourite app and why?

Because your kids don’t have to make eye contact with you, they’re more likely to open up. It’s the perfect time for you to have the screen time discussion. Once you understand more about how your kids are using their smartphones and other devices, you’ll have a better idea of the limitations you need to put in place for your family.

#3 Give yourself a break

Mother needs a break quote

We know, Nirvana is a happy family singing along in the car together. But your kids are going to come with their screens, and they’re going to demand time on their devices. There’s nothing wrong with that…it’s all about moderation and cutting yourself some slack.

Set screen time limits instead of banning smartphones and tablets completely. Yes, the kids can have their devices but on the trip they also have to:

  • Read one chapter of a book they’ve brought with them
  • Complete the family challenge you’ve set (see #1 above)
  • Participate in one family activity in the car without using their device
  • Leave their screens in the car when you stop for a break.

These are just a few ideas, but you get the gist. And take note, kids are more likely to stick to these screen time rules and limits if you do too.


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Do you have any other ways of keeping your kids entertained on long family trips? Tell us in the comments below!

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