• Fri, Dec 20 - 11:00 am ET

6 Ways I Keep My Car An Electronic Free Zone – Even In Holiday Traffic

sb10064838f-005No matter what you celebrate, the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is the season for travel.  December finds us scrambling to spend time with family and friends, out of obligation or just the chance to take a little vacation time while the kids are off from school.  That means a lot of driving — usually long distances — and a lot of traffic.  Most parents rely heavily on electronic gadgets and the newest apps to get them through those drives, but we run it old school.

Our car is completely electronic free — that means no handheld games, no iPhones, no iPads, no televisions in the back of any headrests.  Although it wasn’t part of the plan, we don’t even have a radio because it broke and they can’t fix it because it has a cassette player.  I told you we were old school.  Like Model-T old school.

This isn’t a humblebrag because my two-year-old and four-year-old watch lots of TV and play on our computer at home.  I’m not above distracting them with things, but we go electronic free in the car for two major reasons.

First, there is no one else to bother.  I am far more concerned about how my kids will behave on an airplane, because we all know how ornery people get on airplanes.  I don’t need someone trying to drug them, or screaming at me, or trying to banish me to a specific section by the bathrooms.  And as cute as it is, I just can’t bring myself to write little notes to my fellow passengers, especially when some of them are a-holes themselves.  In the car it’s just the two kids and their two parents.   If this isn’t the time to practice acceptable public behavior, I don’t know what is.  My husband and I just sit in the front trying to tune them out as much as possible.  I mean, they are strapped in and separated by the middle seat, so how much damage could they really do if we just ignored them the whole time?  When the complaints and the noise level get to a migraine-inducing, ear piercing level, my husband jokes that he wants to trade in our Jetta for a limousine with a privacy window so we could completely block them out.  How awesome would that be?

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • Moses

    I wish I could read in the car. I even so much as look at a text message and I will get oh so motion sick… bleck :-(

    • phoenix81

      I remember many road trips growing up trying to pass the time by reading; most of the time I ended up puking- oh, the memories!

    • Lilly

      My sisters got the books and I got the front seat (way less carsick there), I still think I got the better end of the deal

    • Ashley

      When I was a kid I could read in the car. Not so much anymore… I’ve heard it can get worse after pregnancy, so I need to get my ass to Six Flags before we make a baby.

  • Paul White

    Why? Seriously. I used to take car rides from Houston to Fort Davis and Houston To Alamagordo NM. I would have *loved* some electronics if they’d had them at the time. 15 hours of riding…ugh.

    Reading, games, etc all pale eventually. Adding in an MP3 player or something would have given us one more moption

    • Kat

      This! We just did a 15 hour drive over two days, pretty much a third of the way across Australia. I get bored, my husband gets bored. Why not do what we can to help make it as fun as possible for our kids? The car is hardly my only opportunity to teach appropriate public behaviour.

  • Kay_Sue

    Yeah, I’d break the no-electronics zone in about five seconds flat.

    No sense trying to enforce it for my kiddos when I’m an unrepentant Candy Crush addict.

    • Kay_Sue

      Not to mention, my husband and I would wind up having violent outbursts if we didn’t have Google to settle the arguments…er, discussions…we will inevitably get into.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with SOME electronics in a car — especially if you’ve got really long drives to do, like the 4-hour trip I take to my parents’ house — but I’d agree that it’s also a great opportunity to teach them other ways to entertain themselves. I try to split the trip in half: we do the first part of the drive electronic-free, and then for the second half, when their patience is flagging, they get to pick a show to watch on the portable DVD player.

    My son (almost 5) does love to play on my phone at home, but I’ve set a “no phone use in the car” rule so that we always have charge in case there’s an emergency and we have to use it for calling/texting. This Monday I was driving back from a visit, and we came across an accident that had just happened — fortunately everyone was okay, but I called 911 to notify police and paramedics. My son was very thoughtful about it, and later in the drive, we talked about it. I’ve noticed that, since then, he hasn’t asked about playing on the phone in the car, so I think the importance of that really sunk in.

  • pineapplegrasss

    We don’t do electronics in the car for our kids either. In fact, I do not let my kids play on my cell phone, ever. Those suckers are expensive. Sleep. I always pray that they just fall asleep. Crayons and coloring books work well too, until you’re trying to drive 70mph down I10 while swerving and reaching around the back of your seat trying to find crayons that inadvertently get dropped.

  • Mikster

    Mine are permitted to bring their iPods if they like- cause my iPod is probably playing something they don’t like anyway. But I do NOT permit food or drinks, with the exception of water, in my car. Pet peeve of mine. NO food. And of course, they can always bring a book. I’d never get a DVD player in the car. The 14 yr old has a mini iPad that she’s welcome to use. But they are not permitted to bring electronics to the table- at home or out and about. Pet Peeve number 2.

    • Paul White

      how do you handle long drives? It’s one thing not to eat or drink for an hour, but if you’ve got a long (6+ hour) drive, you’re going to need to drink, and probably eat. I hate stopping more than needed so I’m more apt to just chug some soda or water and keep going until I need gas/bathroom.

    • Alicia Kiner

      I bought my first ever brand new car (almost 2 years ago now), so I have a pretty strict no food policy as well. Long trips are the exception. I still make sure to limit the amount of messiness said food has, but I can see her point. Snack sizes to limit how much spills, apple sauce pouches, etc are wonderful for long trips. I like the idea of no electronics. Again, it depends on the length of time in the car. If we’re talking about a 2 hour drive, they can deal. An 8+ hour drive, I’d go batshit if they didn’t have something to do lol.

    • Mikster

      Why we get out of the car and eat outside (picnic area), or in a restaurant. I just don’t permit it- can’t abide food in a car,nor does my hsuabnd. It’s a non-issue since that’s just how it’s always been. I[m not saying it’s wrong or that you shouldn’t do it either. I just find it gross in a car and won’t. I guess I don’t mind stopping as much as others might.

    • Paul White

      I’m trying to grok the grossness and I just can’t see it being any grosser than a picnic table. I mean, I’m not talking super messy foods, just sandwhiches in a cooler and stuff.

      I kind of wish we could have done picnic tables more though…that’s a long damn time in a car when you’re 7-10 years old!

    • Katherine Handcock

      I think Mikster means gross for the car — and having recently seen what lurks under my kids’ car seats, I have to agree! That said, I do allow snacks/drinks in my car for sanity purposes, especially on long drives when I’m travelling with the kids on my own, and I just accept the consequences. But someday, when they are older, I will rejoice in never finding another half-eaten mini Bear Paw cookie in my car again.

    • AP

      Growing up, my family had a no food in the car rule, except on very long trips. (Usually a bag of candy from a rest stop, or some Pringles.) My mom felt it was too unsafe to risk someone choking when there was no guarantee an adult could get the child free in time to stop it.

    • Justme

      My dad is/was an auto-body repairman when I was growing up. We had the same exact rule. Still, to this day, there are NO snacks allowed in my car.

  • Renee J

    You can have my DVD player and iPads from my cold, dead hand. I’m not listening to 8+ hours of kids bickering. These other things work fine if it’s a two hour or less trip.

  • SnoozyPuppies

    I totally thought I’d be this person. But then we ended up with a car with a built-in DVD player because we got a good deal on a lease return, and… I kind of love it. We make long drives across the Canadian Prairies several times a year and there is NOTHING to look at (makes car games like I Spy really challenging!). My kids enjoy quietly watching movies on the way, and my husband and I get to have quiet, uninterrupted conversations (a rare treat for us).

  • brebay

    This lady should be more worried that her steering wheel’s on the wrong side of the car!

    • Rachel

      That’s how ours is.

    • brebay

      yeah, it was just a joke…obviously.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    Back in the day before keeping your child in a car seat until college, my mom would have one of us in the front and the other in the back. No fighting. Then we’d listen to the radio and have a conversation.
    However, as we got older, Walkmans and Gameboys made their way into our car.

  • SusannahJoy

    I have so much jealousy for people who can read in the car. Seriously, it’s incalculable. But if I even think about reading, I start puking. :(

  • Byron

    The kids in the main picture are playing GBA-SPs, ah, that brings back memories. (they’re systems which became obsolete in 2004 or so, lol)

    I guess 4 is a bit too young to use or get much out of an i-pad or a 3DS/PSvita and a 2 year old is not even a debate. I got my first handheld when I was 9 back in the day and…yeah…you couldn’t separate me from that thing (original gameboy).

    I remember when the pokemon craze happened, you could see so many kids with their special colored pokemon cartridges in their gameboys everywhere you went, even in restaurants. Those days were fun. Now with 3DS you can’t tell what people are playing, you have to loom over their shoulder like a weirdo.

    To be frank though, not all videogames are “apps” or angry birds. You mention books and role-playing in your article and those are actualy my favorite genre of videogames. Role playing visual novel style games are awesome and I think your kids would love them if they were a tad older. Also, videogames can help with language skills. I vehemently believe that playing a whole lot of Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid (story-heavy games where the plot is the main point of the experience, for those not knowing these series) did more for my English skill(not a native speaker, hehe) than 7 years of cram school ever did.

    • Kheldarson

      We still have a GBA-SP floating around somewhere. Gotta keep it or the original DS in working order so I can play my old cartridges ;)

      And what do you mean you can’t tell what someone’s playing on a 3DS? That’s what Streetpass is for! :P

  • Kate

    I love the talks about 8+ hour drives. Seeing our family means a 20+ hour drive (we’re military), that we do in one go , and you bet your ass my 2 year old is watching a movie on the iPad. Music, books, toys….they’re all great and we use all those options. But a baby zoned in on The Lorax? Priceless silence.

  • FF4life

    You will have to pry the tablet from my daughters sticky, sugar coated hands. Even then I imagine her chewing her way out of the car seat and lunging at you with full hair pulling tiny teeth biting fury.

    And that will be my trip entertainment.

  • Emily

    These probably wouldn’t work for under school-aged children, but we always did things like the alphabet game (finding something outside your side of the window that starts with each letter, first person/team to finish wins), making up stories about other drivers around us, near any holiday we would team up based on what side of the car you were on and count houses with decorations. Whichever side had the most won (the driver has been known to cheat in that one). I’m sure there were lots more. If we were driving in the states, we’d play the license plate game. We didn’t have any electronics (besides the car radio) until we were old enough to buy our own discmans (discmen?) and bring them.

    • moonie27

      We played the word game on long trips. Someone says a word, the next person says a word that starts with the letter the first word ended with. No proper nouns, no foreign languages, no repeating a word that had been said.

      It was the most entertaining game and we could play for hours, especially when we got older.

  • Harriet Meadow

    I have really fond memories of car time with my family. Whether it was just commuting to and from school with the horrendous traffic or one of our epic family road trips that we took every summer, I LOVED being in the car with my family. We eventually did have a VCR and TV in our second van, and I had a walkman, but we didn’t really need either of those things. We read, talked, sang (sooooo much singing), played road-trip games, did math word problems (courtesy of my dad), etc. My mom was talking about how sad it is that my teenage brother and his carpool friends just play on their phones or iPads (he goes to a school where they use iPads instead of books) the whole time they’re in the car, because they’re missing out on some great opportunities for conversation!