Why You Need to Open Tech Gifts Before Your Kids Do

by Barrett

If you’re planning on figuring out your kid’s new RC vehicles and drones right after “Thank you, Daddy!” you may be delirious from all of your shopping. Here’s what you should do instead…

Do you know how to use the tech toys you’re giving your children this year? If you think you’re just going to wing it on the big day, I’ve got a report to share from the front lines of parenting…

It doesn’t matter how technically savvy you think you are. I’ve got a third grader, and let me tell you, his tech is already getting complicated for me.

And even if the toys aren’t that complex to operate, misuse could actually get a little dangerous (if you’re to believe the instructions).

Parenting Tech Tip:
So, do yourself a favor and block some personal time to first teach yourself how the toys actually work. Does that mean you’ve got to unbox each item, play with it and then re-box it?

That’s absolutely right.

Let me share a couple of my own experiences…

New RC Vehicle for My 8 Year Old
This year, I bought another radio controlled car for my boy:

I picked it up our local hobby store… Horizon Hobby.
(How quaint, right?)

I unboxed the mini monster and took a peek at its instruction booklet.
(How hard could it be to operate another RC vehicle?)

Well, it may not be difficult to use, but apparently it’s easy to operate incorrectly. Here are some of the warnings that jumped off of the page…

  • Charge for 9 hours
  • Do not charge overnight
  • Do not leave unattended while charging
  • Do not charge battery in the chassis or battery will overheat
  • Do not lick any parts or death may result
  • Do not run the car slowly or else it will overheat.
    (Must operate as speedily as possible?)

Are they serious?
(All of this reminds me of the old Saturday Night Live sketch…
“Happy Fun Ball.”)

I signed off on what seemed like twenty pages of disclaimers and took the Seismic out for a quick spin…
It is fast… much better suited for outdoor operation in our driveway.

And yes, I’ll pay attention to how its battery is charged, although I’m not going to stare at it for nine hours.

More Drone Flying Lessons
This year, it was time to buy another starter drone for my eight year old.

Three years ago, I purchased this starter quadcopter:

The Inductrix is really tiny, and I had hoped it would be simple enough for my boy to learn with. But when I first tried it out myself, I found it difficult to control and couldn’t keep it hovering in one place.
(I should admit I’d never tried flying a drone before.)

As a result, I actually delayed giving the Inductrix to my young Padawan.

When he finally tried it out last year, he immediately demonstrated decent piloting competencies.
(Must be due to all of that flying he does in Minecraft creative mode on our iPad)

Still, the micro drone would inevitably crash into a wall or the ceiling. My boy loved the Inductrix, but it could only take so many impacts in our family room before one of the propellers stopped working…

Yes, I took it in for repair, but when another propeller stalled, I decided to look for a more durable model that was easier to control…

This year, I went with another Horizon Hobby model…

This quadcopter is bigger than the Inductrix, and it also sports an onboard camera. While the photo and video capability is cool, I’m not at all interested in that… yet.
(Remember, I’m just looking to keep the darn thing in the air!)

So, late one night… I quietly unboxed the Vizo and charged up the battery.
(Yes, the instructions contained battery warnings too.)

And guess what…?
This one is much easier to use…

It’s more stable while airborne and also comes with auto take-off and landing modes.

Essentially… you press a button, and the drone takes off and hovers a foot off the ground. You fly it from there. Similarly, when you want to land… you position the drone just above the floor and press the ‘land’ button. The drone descends slowly and the blades stop turning after touch down.
(It’s a real game-changer.)

I’m sure purists would say that this auto feature masks the heavy lifting of really figuring out how a quadcopter operates, but I’m okay with a little ‘help’ at this stage of the learning curve.

My Inner Child
I’m not sure what it says when I’m gifting my son toys that I can’t operate without some training. I’m sure some would say it has nothing to do with me, and that he should simply figure it out for himself.
(It’s the gift of building self-reliance.)

But what fun is that when we’re playing together?
So again, is this really more about him… or me?

That’s a deep question for another time…

Batteries Not Included
Suffice it to say, this daddy needed to secretly take some driving and flying training to ensure that he was ready to help his son enjoy his new tech toys this year.
(I highly recommend the prep.)

Just another way that as a parent… you’ve got to keep up.

And yes, there are, in fact, instruction manuals.