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Screen Sanity: Car Time


Do you remember the day when devices were not an option to use in the car? My family's five hour drive down Texas roads to my grandma's house meant five hours with no screens. Five hours of talking to my family, looking out the window, thinking, sleeping, reading...

Nowadays, kids can hardly make the drive home from school without using a screen.

There is a danger in handing our kids a screen every time they are in the car. By not having those moments in the car of being still, they are missing out on:

1. Thoughts and ideas--Being bored prompts them to think, possibly leading to ideas and revelations. When they are still, their minds are open to receive thoughts and thoughts are what help shape them. Think of all the times you feel inspired or motivated or encouraged in the quiet of your car. Often, when I get in my car for a drive, my brain starts moving. Allowing our children to just sit and be still in the car will give them a chance to think, which is vital for perspective and growth.

2. Watching life as it goes by--Looking out the window, just gazing at what is going by, moves their brain to think and ponder and also allows them to see unexpected things they would otherwise miss. They might see a deer grazing in the grass on the side of the road. They might notice funny car riders next to you, like a lone dancer or funny-looking sleeper. By looking out the window, they will notice nature and culture and businesses. They will notice trash and signs and beauty. All of these sights out the window will contribute to their shaping.

3. Learning life skills, like how to drive and a sense of direction--When their faces are glued to a screen, they aren't watching what you are doing on the road. Part of learning how to drive is done observing how the driver drives. There are so many rules to the road. The more they observe you in action, the more they will learn before it is their turn to get behind the wheel.

I'm a little concerned about this generation's sense of direction when they are old enough to drive! Part of learning direction is watching as the driver navigates.

4. Conversation--Talking to each other in the car teaches children those interpersonal skills they need. It helps them understand how to work through a conversation. It connects the people in the car, through laughter and stories and encouragement and confession....Staying away from screens in the car opens up the chance for great discussion.

We had a bit of a drive to get to their dentist yesterday. Of course, they would have loved to have spent the whole ride on their ipods. But our rules help make the expectation clear:

One hour or more in the car warrants time on a device. Less than one hour means no device. Most of the time they don't even bring their device with them so they can have a time of separation from it and see that is ok.

Our ride to the dentist was priceless. LOTS of laughing. Siblings sitting right next to each other being silly. Voices singing Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson together. Kids asking questions. Me sharing some little lessons along the way.

And they know it too...that car rides experiencing life along the way are way better than their face in a screen.

I encourage you to put your foot down and take charge of the small moments you have with your children, including moments in the car. Help your children learn what time being still, without a device, looks like.

I wonder how many invention ideas were created in boredom. I wonder how far imagination can go in boredom. And I wonder how much more we can hear the voice of God, in the quiet of our car, sitting in boredom. In a world of screens, we have to intentionally fit in times of stillness for our children, unplugged. We have to stop letting devices win their hearts, and instead make the most of the short time we have with them.

There is no better and more consistent time than in the car. They're enclosed in a small space with you, strapped in!...Make it count!