Does modern technology bring families together or push them apart?

Posted on 12. Aug, 2009 by in Uncategorized

*Picture a 6-year-old girl rubbing two ear buds together and then says “clear” playing as if the ear buds are a defibrillator jump-starting the heart on here headless Barbie. I don’t think that is going to save this poor decapitated doll.

20_gcv_int_photogalTraveling on vacations and such with children is much different than it was just 10 or 15 years ago. Since then, the entire world has changed. Mobile DVD, satellite TV, and now wireless internet are all available in just about any new car, and can be retrofitted into just about any vehicle. While it certainly makes a long trip more relaxing, it does take a little away from the whole experience. As a kid, my family always took two long summer vacations, at least a week at a time. We went to Colorado at least once, and sometimes twice. I would have loved to have had something to do, a video game, watch movies, anything to pass the time. The speed limit was 55, so it took several more hours to get there than it does now, where driving 75 is no problem.

What I got instead of an easy way to pass the time was long talks with my older sister, learning to play road games with my family and a little bonding time. Sure, it could be boring, just sitting there for hours through the middle of the night (my parents never stopped for a hotel halfway through, we always drove straight there, maybe grabbing some rest for a couple of hours at a noisy rest area), but I got to listen to lots of talk radio. My favorites were the classic radio shows from before the days of television, you could usually catch one around 10 or 11 on an A.M. station. And when there was nothing on or nothing to talk about, you could always look outside and watch the scenery change. I have always been fascinated by how you can cross a state line and instantly see differences in the landscape. Whether it’s how the road changes, the rest areas, or how houses and architecture is different, you learn a lot about the world around you. I have always paid attention to the area around me. I can still find my way around a place I visited as a kid, though I have not been there in years.

This trip to Detroit is really exciting, because I have never been to that part of the country, so it will all be new. I must say thank the Lord for GPS when it comes to that.

Today, you can still do the same things. Satellite radio has a classic radio channel that plays nothing but older radio shows. Couple that with comedy channels, kids channels and all the talk channels you can handle, there are a lot of options for sharing experiences with your kids. While the kids are young, it’s a little more difficult to turn the TV off though. They just are not interested in talk radio, and the comedy stations are either adult-oriented or so bland it just isn’t very funny.

You would think that having three sets of wireless headphones and all the Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network the kids can handle would have a positive effect on the volume coming from the rear seat. Having their attention directed to the twin 9” TV screen hanging from the roof of the Grand Caravan should keep the chatter to a minimum. The problem is that they are still kids. Kids that like to touch their siblings to annoy them. Kids that can always find something to make noise over. While every parent has had to deal with this, add headphones and you have another issue- the volume. Instead of simply saying “he’s touching me!” its “HE’S TOUCHING ME!!” because they talk much louder with the headphones on. Sometimes technology just makes things louder.

While on a test run with the new van, the kids had the TV on, and we had the sound playing through the van’s speakers. My wife and I didn’t recognize the show (the front video screen doesn’t display the video while driving) and we asked the kids what show they were watching. Sometimes Cartoon Network plays Adult Swim (a series of adult-themed cartoons) in the evenings, which is not suitable for young children. My oldest was looking for the remote control so he could bring up the info for the show.

“What does it look like?” I queried about the show.

My daughter, age 6 replied very matter of fact “it’s black, small and has white buttons”.

My wife and I started laughing our heads off. It was a classic comedic moment.

If there is any point to this post, it would have to be this- do not let modern convenience get in the way of spending time together. Just because you are in the car together doesn’t mean you are interacting with each other. Plan some time to turn the TV and radio off. Teach your kids how to play SlugBug, I Spy, Collect License Plates, and other classic road games. Your children will remember it forever and it will bring you closer together. And hey, if you need some ideas, just use your mobile WiFi connection to look up some road games.

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