Family drives aren’t what they used to be

If you’re going on a road trip with your children, chances are they’ll be on their phones or tablets. Some parents say car trips are a good opportunity to talk to their kids because it’s a small space and there’s no eye contact. But it appears family holidays today are more about watching screens than talking.

Eyes down

Three quarters of parents with children 3-16 say their child is typically watching a screen while on a car trip. This came from a Ford Australia survey about the benefits of families talking to each other on a road trip. It claimed nearly half of kids start talking within 5 minutes and 92% of them within half an hour of being in the car.

There is no conversation if everyone in the car is on a mobile phone or tablet. In fact, the driver is the only person not permitted to use one.

A Groupon survey found American families spend 6 hours a day, or a third of their Summer holidays, on screens:

  • The average child watches 60 movies and plays 150 hours of video games
  • More than three quarters of parents think screen exposure influences children’s moods
  • 62% of parents say it’s a regular battle to get their children to put down their devices.

Anecdotally, the experience of Australian parents appears to be much the same.

Weekly time spent looking at screens

What happens on family road trips is only a taste of what is going on in Australian homes. It seems we spend almost eight times more hours looking at screens than with the people we love.

RU OK? says we spend an average 46 hours of weekly leisure time looking at TV or digital devices, compared to only 6 hours with family and friends. Each week:

  • Parents spend 39.4 hours
  • 13-18 year olds spend 43.6 hours
  • 6-13 year olds spend 31.5 hours
  • 2-6 year olds spend 25.9 hours
  • Under 2 year olds spend 14.3 hours on screens.

It’s no surprise children spend increasingly more time on screens when their parents are doing exactly the same.

During school holidays, a road trip provides a chance to escape the demands of ordinary life, listen to some music, enjoy the scenery, and actually put away those screens and talk.

Is this kind of road trip a thing of the past? Tell us. On screen. Facebook.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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