Digital Distractions on a Road Trip Mean A Calmer, Curse-Free Mom

Mar 21

Do you ever have the urge to tell your child to shut the @#$% up? If you have kids, like mine, who are comfortable yelling back at their parents without a care in the wind about the consequences, then it’s very likely you have the odd inclination to blurt an epithet-filled request to close their traps. Not that you should ever follow through on that urge… But having just returned from a road trip where our SUV travelled over 3,000 km, I can attest to the need for self-control when confined to small inescapable spaces with children on board. There’s no harm in helping yourself out, though, by including a bevy of the latest digital distractions to stem your frustrations.

With three boys between the ages of 7 and 11, maintaining a semblance of peace and quiet can be like shouting for a ceasefire amid a cacophony of gun fire. Although my husband and I always try to ignore the early rumblings of a sibling stand-off, we hate to risk the likelihood of blood on the upholstery if we were to allow the fights to take their natural course.

The road trip is the one time in my life when I am truly grateful for my boys’ addictive obsession with video games. In fact, I’ve been known to deny their favourite pastime for weeks leading up to our departure date to ensure their need to fill up on lost time will remain insatiable the entire car ride. Of course, I do force them to take breaks from their mini screens periodically. After all, isn’t part of a road trip experience actually looking out the window once in a while? Look kids! Cows! Look kids! Horses! Look kids! A bridge. Okay, maybe it’s not that thrilling an experience, but that’s just the way road trips work, right?

During our latest March Break excursion that carried us from Toronto to Florida (and back), I’ve never relied more heavily on digital entertainment. Thanks to the many hand held devices and their accompanying car adapters, we had no batteries die on us ¬†with their accompanying woeful moans. It turns out, I’m not alone in my accumulation of tangled cords that litter my vehicle. According to The NPD Group, people like me spent more than $170 million in 2011 on products that integrate portable devices in the car.

Recent Canadian statistics indicate that 93% of households with two or more other people have Internet access compared to only 58% of those living alone having online access. While no reason is given for this discrepancy, I can’t help but consider the possibility that part of the reason may be that our screens provide us with a reprieve from our household companions (even those we love can irritate the heck out of us). No surprise, then, that we crave that same sense of solitude in our packed minivans.

Some may lament the end of family sing-alongs (the ol’ 100-bottle-of-beer-on-the-wall is a goody) and family games like 20 questions or I Spy. However, I can honestly say that the digital entertainment has not created invisible cubicles in our car, keeping us emotionally separate. While we may not sing about crashing beer bottles, it’s not unlikely to see us fist pumping together to Party Rock Anthem or whatever other song my sons select from my iPhone’s playlist.

Despite my best efforts, the boys still have their squabbles (they’re usually over whose turn it is to play with the one coveted video game). But the fights are less frequent than they used to be leaving the driver less distracted, and everyone generally more content. Furthermore, if I can cut back on the number of times I have to bite my tongue from saying, well… you know, then those small screens will always be welcome passengers on my road trips.

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