Family road trip: How to travel with teens and tech

By: Beatrice Moise

A cognitive specialist designed this family road trip tech plan for families and teens to help manage anxiety while boosting learning and family bonding.

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Sisters in backseat of car on a road trip

Family road trips can give your teen a chance to get away from the daily distractions and social pressures at the root of a lot of their day-to-day stress. But travel with teens can also mean trying to balance their need for space with their need for greater connection with you. If done well—and with your guidance—tech can help them meet those needs.

I started doing a family road trip tech routine to balance screen time with non-screen time with my kids when they were young. Now that I’ve got a teenager in the house, I’ve tweaked my approach to meet the needs of the teenage brain. I’ve been sharing it with the families I coach, too, with some great results. It’s a blend of onscreen and off-screen time, with some breaks built in.

Take a look.


Mophie Powerstation XL  | Family Road Trip

[Featured tech: mophie power station XL 20k]

Family road trip tech: The mophie power station XL 20k can power up to three devices at once.

1. Screen time: 60 minutes

How the teen spends their screen time can be their choice: Watch videos or scroll social media content. But it’s essential to put limits on those activities for teens on a family road trip. Too much screen time may trigger the release of stress-inducing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, or could lead to dopamine let-down once they’re off their device. And teens also struggle to self-regulate, which can be a problem as they’re also wired to seek the kind of pleasure that screens provide.

Try this: Ask your teen to set a timer for 60 minutes to track their screen time.

Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones | Family Road Trip

[Featured tech: Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones]

Family road trip tech: Get up to 24 hours of power from one charge with the Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones.

2. Mindfulness break: 20 minutes

A survey done by the American Psychological Association showed that a teen’s stress levels during the school year are above a healthy level, at 5.8 on a 10-point scale where 3.9 is considered healthy. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that can help reduce stress levels, and anything that calms your teen, like listening to music, can help relieve stress from both internal and external stressors by releasing endorphins, making the trip more pleasant.

Try this: Ask your teen to identify a calming activity. Then work together to find an option that’s appropriate for a family road trip and doesn’t involve looking at screens.

“Teens specifically desire a connection with their parents in the form of a shared interest.” Bea Moise, cognitive specialist and parenting coach
Sony Portable X-Series XE200 Bluetooth Speaker | Family Road Trip

[Featured tech: Sony Portable X-Series XE200 Bluetooth Speaker]

Family road trip tech: The Sony Portable X-Series XE200 Bluetooth Speaker is waterproof and dustproof so you can listen together, anywhere.

3. Listening to a learning podcast or book: 60 minutes

A lot of family road trip bonding happens when you’re learning something new together. Learning through podcasts or audiobooks can be about anything, like why video games are so popular or how birds communicate. The goal is to ignite neurons in parts of the brain that may have been dormant.

Try this: It’s essential to let your teen pick the topic—but it needs to be something you’re both learning about together.

Then repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 until you arrive at your destination

Enlist your teens as timekeepers—they can set timers and reminders on their devices to keep the routine on track. Since teens’ frontal lobes are not fully developed, they still struggle to self-regulate—they will still need your help reminding them about their usage.

Screenshot this for later

Family road trip tech plan for teens

  1. 60 minutes with screens
  2. 20 minutes mindfulness break
  3. 60 minutes learning via podcast or audiobook
  4. Repeat until you arrive at your destination

Keep them safe at home and on the road with Smart Family. Learn more.

About the author:

Beatrice (Bea) Moise, M.S., BCCS., is a Board-Certified Cognitive Specialist, parenting coach, national speaker, and author of Our Neurodivergent Journey. Her UNIQUE parenting channel on YouTube is dedicated to educating individuals on neurodiversity.


The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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