TV for minivan

Last summer my wife and I had the mini-van debate.

We liked the size of the vehicles, the ability for the kids to sit in their own bucket chairs, and to eventually jam an entire soccer team should we pull the short straw to drive for the out-of-town game.

But there was one stopper that had me pulling the plug, putting my foot down, and vetoing the mini-van – video screens for the backseat.

Sorry to go old man on you, but if you put tv screens in your car, you’ve absolutely ruined your children.

I grew up in an era of license plate bingo, I spy, and a grab bag of coloring books, novels, and word puzzles. My childhood summer vacations of the 70s and 80s went across the continent 3 times and went up and down both coasts. I have traveled from California, to Washington, Minnesota, to New York, to South Carolina with nothing fancier than a walkman to keep me entertained.

I get that a minivan is a depressing parenting milestone for some, but pimping your ride with TVs in the headrest makes things worse, no better. Why? Let me explain ..

The option of TV screens is an add-on measured in thousands. For what? For a dvd player in your dash and a couple of flip down screens for the back seat. You can get every family member their own iPad for less than this option. Each child can read books, play games, listen to music, do homework, watch movies, and learn. An individual experience of an iPad, or a communal video experience of Dora, High School Musical, or Twilight. Again.

You’ve seen the studies, no screen time for kids under 2. Yet pull up to a minivan at a red light, or drive behind them at night and you’ll see an entire drive-in of car seats in the back seat riveted to that screen. The moment the kids get in the car, the screen is there. It’s like you’ve plopped them on a couch, not the backseat. Never mind clamoring for their favorite novelty music, they’ll be demanding their shows on every single ride.

I get the idea of using video to soothe the kids on the 4-8 hour road trips you’ve got planned for summer vacation, but when all you’re doing is groceries, the mall, or a trip to evening activities – they don’t need the tv. But that screen will be there, and they will want it on. Perhaps you’re a strong enough parent to say no every single time, but I would buckle. So I don’t introduce it.

Our friends just got a new minivan (photo at top), and the screens came standard. The package they wanted with the seat upgrades, came with the TVs. There was no way to remove them from the purchase. Which is why we drive a base model SUV.

I’ve met Xzibit, and I made it very clear I did not need him to pimp my ride. My kids will play with dinosaurs in the back seat, we’ll look out the window and enjoy the view.

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