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Challenge: Kids and Technology

Technology will not divide us

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This is a post written by my brother Zack who was so kind to write his story about his son and his love towards technology. Hope you'll enjoy!

father and son flying drones

When my son Robbie was five, we went out flying in a friends plane. He held onto me tight with fear and excitement as he looked down at the earth, far below, and then back to me. "Daddy, I wanna fly with you forever!". When your kids are young they always want to spend time with Dad, learning, building, and getting messy while they explore. All too often we take that for granted, and that was certainly true of me. Robbie had spent so long wanting to be right at my side that his growing distance was apparent to me as he headed into teen years.

Robbie was 12 the first time he refused my offer to go flying. He was in his room with his nose practically against his computer screen, playing some kind of WWII air-fight game. I'd knocked, like I always did and leaned in, asking "Hey bud, Wanna come flying? It's a beautiful day for it." He shook his head, not even raising up his head to answer "Nah, not today dad." I didn't understand why he'd want to play a game about flying rather than actually going out and doing it, but I let it go. It'd been a few months since then, and he'd rejected my offer every time when I began to get frustrated.

Technology had advanced hugely since I was a boy and it seemed to be taking Robbie away from me. The little boy who'd always wanted to be by my side now seemed like he could care less if I was around. I'd hear other parents at my job complaining about their children's lack of interest, but I'd never expected it to happen to Robbie and I. We had a close bond from the day he was born, so I was floored to find that he now seemed indifferent.

I was determined to find a way for us to spend time together in a way that we could both enjoy. If I forced him into anything, I would risk pushing him even further away. It was in our local mall, just 3 days before Christmas when I found what I hoped would be the solution to our problems. A local game store had a buy one, get one free sale on fpv quadcopter. I'd seen them on the news before, mostly referencing to the companies that were now using them, but buying one for personal use had never crossed my mind. With such a deal, I figured it couldn't hurt to try them.

When Robbie opened his gift on Christmas morning, he actually seemed pretty excited. I asked him if he wanted to fly them the next day and for the first time in quite awhile he said yes. It was a step in the right direction, and I felt good about it waking up the next morning.

Unfortunately the weather decided to be uncooperative and it was raining cats and dogs the next morning. When Robbie came down for breakfast I was already at the table, box open and looking at all the parts. I'd assumed this drone was similar to an RC plane or helicopter, but here it was with what looked to be a webcam. I must have looked awfully perplexed because Robbie laughed and took pity on his old man, taking both the drone and the camera out of my hands. "You attach the camera onto the drone, dad." he told me while expertly snapping the two pieces together. "You can take videos of the where you're flying and the ground below you." He set down the drone and pulled out his laptop, directing it to some videos other people had taken with drones just like ours. We spent all morning watching the clips and learning tricks to take good aerial footage.

We were blessed with clear weather the next day and I thought it would be a good idea to take our gifts for a drive test. I got the best packable daypack from my wife because I love hiking and camping. So, Robbie and I took our drones and my daypack out for a little nature trip. There were even more fun than I'd guessed they would be, and checking the footage we'd got at the end of the day really captured the time we'd spent together.

It's true, technology can come between parents and their children, especially for those of us who aren't technologically gifted. What Robbie and I learned though, was that technology didn't have to create a barrier between us. We could use it to bridge the gap between father and son.

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