Road Trips With Kids, Without Gizmos

koeppen backseat
"Are we there yet?"

Those four words have a way of driving parents crazy in the car. That's why they spend billions of dollars on DVD players and video games to keep the kids entertained in the backseat.

But can families survive without all the gadgets? And is the development of youngsters suffering by losing out on valuable interaction with the rest of the family?

The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen says some experts believe the answer is a decided, "Yes."

Koeppen found a family used to toting all sorts of gizmos in their SUV to keep the kids occupied on road trips. And the adults usually bring along music players, Blackberries and more.

But the Welches, who live in Manhattan, agreed to take a trip in an SUV devoid of any gadgets and, while it was a challenge at first, in the end, the kids loved it. They enjoyed playing old-fashioned games and talking to their parents. The parents had fun, too.

Marcus Welch, 11, and his sister, Isis, 7, said they'd opt for the stripped-down SUV over their family's rolling entertainment center. Their father, Mark, and mother, Vanessa, were pleased.

Mark even said he intends to remove the gadgets from his SUV, one by one, to see how it goes.

Battling back-seat boredom with electronics has become a $9 billion dollar a year business, Koeppen says. Nearly 70 percent of families use DVD players in the car.

But family psychologist Richard Gallagher says overusing these gadgets can do more harm than good: "Kids who are involved with excessive amounts of those things are kids that do have more trouble with academics, are kids that have more trouble getting along with other children."

Gallagher says what we've lost from road trips is family interaction, which teaches children important social skills. He adds that it's OK to let your kids be bored: "Give them the chance to say, 'OK, now it's my job to take care of myself and entertain myself someway,' and perhaps they'll come up with some creative games."

As for the initial squabbling between Marcus and Isis, Gallagher says, "That is one of the parts of learning to grow up, learning to be able to manage things, to learn how to get along with others when you're frustrated."