In the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, Greg Heffley’s mother confiscates her family’s phones and devices at the start of their cross-country road trip—even her husband’s—much to their torture and chagrin. The only connecting they’ll do, she declares, is to each other. Of course, the children and even the father resort to elaborate schemes to sneak the phones back into their possession without puncturing her idealism.
On long travel days that stretch over miles, it’s tempting to allow kids to fall back upon screens big and small, especially if your RV is equipped with the comforts of home. Why endure endless questions of “Are we there yet?” when the TV is a reliable distraction with minimal talk-back?
A little screen time is fine. But too much passive watching, whether on the big screen or the smart phone, lulls kids into sedentary states—failing to engage their bodies or even their minds. Harvard studies find that children who watch excessive television or YouTube have higher rates of obesity, due to both inactivity and the relentless food marketing during shows and commercials. Research also finds that kids’ constant access to small screens cuts into the sleep they need at night, contributing to lethargy and fatigue. And that can sap the energy they need to build for camping.
“Beyond the health effects, more than anything else when children are young, they need to spend time with real people: other children and adults,” says Steven Gortmaker, professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “So we are very interested in helping parents lower the dose.” (link to http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/09/keeping-an-eye-on-screen-time/)
Instead of screen time on the road, try the following car games (courtesy Parents.com):
Theme song game. One player hums the tune to a favorite TV show, and everyone else tries to name the show as fast as possible. The first person to guess correctly hums the next song.
Animal Name Game. One player names an animal. Then each person in order has to name another animal that starts with the last letter of the previous animal named, without repeating!
Secret place race. One person looks at a road map and finds a small town, village, river, etc. That person announces the name of the place she has chosen. A second player has 60 seconds to look at the map and try to find the secret place.