May is a busy month – several holidays, end-of-school-year events, sports leagues in full gear, and let’s not forget No Sock Day (May 8). All of these occasions likely add up to significant travel time, which in turn means screen time in cars for many kids.

Some years ago, I heard this generation of youth called “the pass-back generation,” implying that we adults pass back our devices when we want to keep them occupied during car trips. I think it’s even more likely these days that many kids are carrying their own devices, so no passing is required. Devices can bring peace and good humor on a road trip, especially a long one. Every child gets to choose their own media and adults get their own channels up front, or even a chance for a lengthy, uninterrupted conversation. And yet, I’d still like to advocate for a bit of noise.

For a birthday party, we took my daughter and a bunch of her friends in our minivan for an outing. Before we had even made it out of the driveway, phones were out and the girls were texting each other while wedged shoulder to shoulder. My wife said, “Ok, we’re not doing this – pass all your phones up front for this trip.” They obliged and within a minute, song had broken out, then happy chatter carried us down the highway. We did the same on the return trip and relished the moment when interaction yielded to happy fatigue. We actually wore out a van full of birthday partiers!

This was a reminder to me that as attractive as the devices are, kids can quickly pivot to engaging in real life with the people literally closest to them. Devices can help this engagement – we’ve looked up silly jokes and conversation starters, played online trivia games, and asked kids for help mapping our route or finding suitable stopping points.

And yes, we’ve often fallen back on devices to help smooth the ride. In other words, while we still qualify as “pass-back” parents, we try to balance that out with some “pass-forward” moments, too.


 Benjamin Kramer, PhD, is the director of education for Austin PBS. 

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Austin Family Magazine

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this with your friends!