Children Turning to Smartphone Games During Long Car Trips

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Keeping kids amused while in the car can be a challenge for many parents. In the 1980s when mobile technology was extremely limited road trip games like "I Spy" or counting car colors may have been one of the primary ways to pass the time. However in 2013 only 27 percent of parents say that their kids now play these games. Some may have also replaced family sing alongs with individually listening to music on headphones as 27 percent of parents say they or their kids sing songs during holiday road trips but 42 percent say they or their kids are listening to music on headphones during holiday road trips.

The most popular way of keeping kids busy while in the car seems to be playing video games on mobile devices, with the majority (54%) of parents saying their kids do this. This is not limited to older children as 36 percent of parents with children age two or younger and 62 percent of parents with three to five-year-olds note that their kids play video games in the car during holiday road trips.

Kids in the 1980s could only imagine the car of the future that would allow for movie watching, but now it is reality for many children, as nearly half (46%) of parents say their kids watch movies in the car during road trips. In addition, 30 percent of parents say that their kids text or access the internet on mobile devices in the car while traveling during the holidays, including those who are parents of a child age two or younger (22%).

It's not just in the car

Mobile devices have made a dramatic impact on how many kids spend their entire holiday vacation. One-in-five parents (21%) admit that their children spend five hours or more on mobile devices per day during the holiday season, including seven percent of parents with children two or younger and 19 percent of parents with children three to five years old.

What are the adults doing while the kids are on their mobile devices?

So, while the kids are listening to music, watching movies or playing video games, what are the adults doing? Sixty-two percent of Americans who own mobile devices say they check email (on their devices) during holiday road trips, with two-in-ten (21%) checking at least every hour. Thirteen percent of mobile device owners aged 18 to 44 say they check their email "constantly" (at least every 10 minutes) while on holiday road trips.

In-between email checks, 72 percent of mobile device owners say they use their mobile device to take pictures or videos during the road trip and one-third admit that they do so constantly.

Sharing pictures with out-of-state family and friends in the 1980s required a camera, a roll of film, an envelope and stamps, not to mention more than a week for developing and mailing. However, in 2013, with mobile devices and social media sites, it is much simpler to share while on the go. Forty-one percent of mobile device owners say they post or upload pictures to these sites even while they are in the car on their holiday road trip. Almost a quarter (23%) say they post 3-10 pictures while on the road, while three percent might "overshare," admitting they post "every picture" they take in the car to a social media site.

When asked what kind of pictures they mostly take during the holidays, 41 percent of U.S. adults say mainly group family pictures, 22 percent say pictures of kids and 19 percent say scenic/landscape pictures. Surprisingly, only four percent say they mostly take pictures of food and only two percent say they mostly take "selfies."

Options for listening to music during holiday road trips have also changed for adults since the 1980s, when cassette tapes and AM/FM radio were the primary choices. Thirty-nine percent now listen to music on CD, more than a quarter (27%) listen to music downloaded onto a mobile device such as an mp3 player or mobile phone, 18 percent listen to streaming music (e.g., Pandora or Spotify) via a mobile device or their car, and almost one-in-five (19%) listen to satellite radio. Of those who have a mobile device such as an iPod, phone or other mp3 player, more than one-in-five (21%) have over 500 songs downloaded and 10 percent say they have more than 1,000 songs downloaded. Despite all of these choices, AM/FM radio is still a popular option, as 69 percent of Americans say they listen to AM/FM radio during holiday road trips.

Navigating the Drive

Mobile and other GPS technology have also changed how we get directions and navigate the road during holiday road trips. In the 1980s, stopping to ask for directions may have been a popular way to get help when lost but, in 2013, ten percent of Americans say that they have never stopped to ask for directions in their life. Perhaps not surprisingly, younger Americans are even less likely to have done this, with 20 percent of those aged 18-34 saying they have never stopped to ask.

In the 1980s, lost drivers may have chosen to call a friend -- but they would have most likely had to do this from a nearby pay phone rather than from a cell phone (don't forget, the first commercial cell phone, Motorola DynaTAC, launched in 1984 and cost $3,995). However, in 2013, things have changed and twelve percent of U.S. adults say they have never used a pay phone in their life. In addition, more than two-thirds (67%) say it has been six or more years since they last used a pay phone to make a call, with nearly half (46%) indicating it has been more than 10 years.

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Tags: USA 

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