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A new study commissioned by Ford Australia, surveying around 1200 adult motorists across Australia, suggests that the classic family drive is still considered one of the best ways to break away from our digital obsessions.

Of course, it will surprise few that research carried out for a car brand recommends a road trip over hiking or a bike ride – but the results could nonetheless inspire families to look more closely at their efforts to stay connected.

According to the findings, time in the car can not only get children to open up, but it also helps to spark their imagination. Around 48 per cent of kids will start talking within the first five minutes of the journey, while 92 per cent will open up within 30 minutes.

However, the study – conducted in collaboration with research outfit Galaxy Omnibus earlier this month – also found that 95 per cent of parents feel that electronic devices are hijacking quality bonding time that could be better spent in discussion.

Some 76 per cent of participants with children aged 3- to 16-years-old said their offspring generally spends a car trip on a device or watching digital media.

“It’s worrying that these days people often seem more connected to a virtual world than to their own family, friends and what’s really around them. It’s important to find ways to escape our devices and reconnect with each other,” said Sabrina Read, practicing psychologist and Australian social commentator.

“As hard as it may be, parents, partners and friends can reclaim personal and family time by going screen-free, such as on weekend excursions or a Sunday drive.”

“Research tells us that car trips can provide a great social connection point, so it’s a worthwhile space and time Aussies should consider for family bonding and play,” she added.

The survey found that Australian parents believe the average age where mobile device ownership is acceptable is 11 years old, with 20 per cent saying five to nine years old is okay.

Conversely, the Australian Department of Health says parents should limit their children’s screen time to no more than two hours a day.

“The best conversations often happen in cars for a few reasons, from no eye contact to fewer distractions, providing a safe space for loved ones, especially children, to open up,” Read added.

Other research findings include:

  • Australians believe the car provides a great place and time for family bonding because it provides an escape from the demands of home life (63 per cent), it offers fewer distractions (59 per cent), they can listen to music (51 per cent), it offers an opportunity to enjoy the scenery passing by (43 per cent) and it offers an opportunity to put away mobile devices (35 per cent).
  • Australian parents believe the car provides a great place for family bonding mainly because ‘it’s good to escape the day-to-day demands of home life for a while’ (63 per cent), it offers ‘fewer distractions’ (59 per cent) and they find it ‘easy to open up have conversations/ for children to open up for conversations’ (42 per cent).
  • Amongst adults in the car travelling with a partner or friends, 63 per cent are regularly on devices, checking social media, making calls and reading or sending emails. However, 79 per cent also engage in conversation, underscoring the car as a great place for discussion.

Survey Methodology

This study was conducted on the Galaxy Omnibus between Thursday, 3 August and Monday, 7 August 2017. The sample comprises 1259 Australians aged 18 years and older with a vehicle, distributed throughout Australia by age, gender and region and weighted to the national population based on the latest ABS population estimates. Australians with children at home aged 3 to 16 years were over-sampled to achieve 600 distributed across Australia.

What do you think of the findings? Are there better ways of getting your kids to unwire?

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