Paul Eisenberg tests Ford trunk capacity
A relationship thrives when there are strong reasons to be in one and I suppose my love-hate relationship with technology is so strong because the reasons to love and hate it are as boundless as they are compelling.

And it seems I’m not alone.

In a survey conducted for Ford, “47% of adults globally agree that there is a dark side to technology that’s making us dumber, while 63% claim it makes us less polite.”

Perhaps, like me, you have a child who is smart but who has the capacity to be smarter. But as long as he has his phone in hand and earbuds implanted — so that every question we ever ask is met with an infuriating “What?” – he is not reading, which, I hope we all agree, makes you smarter. So his phone is making him dumber. And yes, that’s my fault.

That tech is making us less polite, less aware, less present, I don’t even know where to start. Plus, I’m going to need to make a point soon.

Hey, a point…

In the aforementioned survey it was also reported that “61% of adults globally agree that technology has a more positive than negative impact on children’s development– but in the U.S., more than half disagree.”

But it’s not as simple as just agreeing or disagreeing, am I right? And that’s where the love-hate thing comes in.

Sure I hate it that if my kids phones and I are in the same room, they love their phones more than me, but on the other hand, I love that we can call or text with each other anytime or that we can check their assignments and grades online. And one of the more unexpected things I love is that my eldest daughter several cities away can video chat with her baby sister and brother for hours at a time, and that I’ll get a “Hi, Dad,” if she happens to notice me passing through the room.

So where does all of this leave us? The cute subheads for the previous stats are “Tech Spiral” and “Parenting Trap,” which for me underscores that we all – car company, survey maker, parents – are aware that there isn’t a simple answer. But this quote from Ford in-house futurist Sheryl Connelly in Are We There Yet, the report in which those statistics appear, helps to frame the love-hate relationship perhaps a bit more clearly than I:

Technology has made life more convenient and efficient – nowhere is this more true than in travel. Yet we also have shorter attention spans, lower retention capacities and a greater likelihood to allow gadgets to do our thinking for us. And as parenting styles proliferate, so, too, does judgment – particularly when it comes to tech’s role in child-rearing. 

That bit about parenting styles and judgment proliferating gives me pause because what I think Connelly means is that soon, there will be no right or wrong way to do anything. That’s an over-interpretation, perhaps, but I fear that’s where we might be headed. She goes on to say that “road trips are an opportunity to better engage children with shared experiences through technology, leveraging their digital aptitudes to share in planning and entertainment decisions as a family.”

Actual Travel Information

That last part of Connelly’s statement is where I stop treading water and can feel my feet touch the sandy bottom of the ocean floor again. Yes, in-vehicle tech is useful… the navigation apps, USB ports, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled everything that do enable the kids to keep themselves and us entertained on the road… and yet, and yet…

… if the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination, as Connelly touches on in the report (she also elaborates on what she and Ford describe as the “future of the road trip” in this podcast) , what are we doing to connect with our kids adjacent to or outside of technology when we travel with them?

That’s touched on but not entirely spelled out in the Ford report, so perhaps this is where Traveling Dad and Traveling Mom can be of some assistance.

  • While in a rental car recently on the way to mother-in-law’s house, my daughters took turns syncing their phone playlists to the car’s audio system and curated the music for hours at a time… but then there came a moment where they stopped the music and launched into Nicki Manaj’s “Starships” a capella, like they did in the old days, my younger daughter starting off the song flawlessly and then totally messing up, and then everybody would laugh and they’d start again. How nice would it be to do a whole car ride a capella? It would be sort of nice.
  • Over at Traveling Mom Gina Vercesi and Susie Kellogg explore travelling unplugged, respectively, on road trips and during a vacation at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
  • The founder of Traveling Mom, Kim Orlando, doesn’t mess around when it comes to making her kids try something, and in this video, which many people think is apocraphyl but it’s not, it’s right here… she bribes her kids to give up their phones for a while on a family vacation.

There’s much, much more content at both Traveling Mom and Traveling Dad having to do with family travel and tech and many other topics you could likely use some help with. But for now, maybe stop reading blog posts and play with your kid, because neither of you are getting any younger.