Embrace technology to make meaningful family connections
You've heard it before. You may have even said it. Technology is destroying our families. But is it really? According to some research, networked families are reporting that technology is helping them “connect and coordinate their lives” and bringing about “shared moments of exploration and entertainment.” Since Internet and smartphone usage is more popular than ever, here are a few ways to use technology to bring families closer.
Keep in contact
In 2015, the Ericsson Consumer Lab studied the impact of communication technology on families and said, “The ability to have continuous contact throughout the day with other family members increases the feeling of closeness and happiness.” Families who participated in the study claimed that technology helps them “communicate more, know each other better, and … organize practicalities/logistics during the week more easily.”
Bringing generations together like never before, technology now offers instant communication regardless of distance. No longer are we confined to landlines or “snail mail.” Families today use social media apps like Twitter and Facebook Messenger to keep in touch. Teens can text to let parents know when they have arrived. College students can Gchat or instant message with their families. Children can Facetime or Skype with grandparents who live across the country or across the world. With services such as WhatsApp and Fring, gone are the days of expensive long-distance fees. Don’t worry if the older generation of your family doesn’t seem keen on learning these “new tricks.” With a little prompting and patience, you can easily bridge the digital divide and connect seniors to technology as well. Staying in touch has never been easier!
Bring back game night
Remember the days when families sat around the dining room table playing board games? Well, those days aren’t gone. Today, families can use gaming systems, smartphones and tablets to have fun together. You will find apps for traditional games like Scrabble as well as new word-based games like WordBrain and 4Pics 1 Word. While many of these games can be played individually, families can also pair off and compete against each other.
In addition, lots of great mobile games for group play are available. Party games like Heads Up! (Android, iOS), Reverse Charades (Android, iOS) and Party Doodles offer tons of family fun. Don’t worry if you aren’t technologically skilled. Many of these games are simple to play. For example, Heads Up! is a pop-culture charades game played with one mobile device among a group.
- Once the app is loaded, whoever is “it” places the device against his or her forehead.
- The device will display a word that “it” cannot see.
- Everyone else tries shouting clues to make “it” guess the word.
- Once “it” guesses the word, she can nod her head downward to advance to the next word.
- If “it” cannot guess a word, he or she tilts his or her head backward to skip the word.
- “It” continues until his or her time has elapsed. Then another player takes a turn as “it.”
- The object of the game is to see which player can guess the most words.
Don’t forget “traditional” gaming systems. The Wii, X-box, Playstation and other gaming devices have no age limit. Whether your family is into dancing, sports, fitness or adventure, active gaming can provide a great way to share a few laughs and get a little exercise.
Host a family movie night
Families no longer have to wait a week to see their special television show or plan a special trip to the movie rental store to pick up that new flick. If everyone suddenly finds a free night at home, schedule an impromptu family movie night. Netflix, Amazon, Itunes and Hulu offer a variety of services for family entertainment without leaving your front door. In addition, Pureflix.com offers faith-based entertainment alternatives. So, throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave, gather the family around the TV and enjoy a movie night.
Collect (and share) family memories
Today, more than ever before, it’s easy to collect and share memories. Facebook and other forms of social media have opened a new door for sharing special and everyday events with our friends and family. Sites like Flickr and Google Photos offer ways to organize and share photos without the expense and hassle of printing. YouTube, Vimeo and Ustream offer more ways that family members can participate in each other’s lives — even when they are miles apart. Grandpa can record a video of himself reading a bedtime story to his granddaughter who lives hundreds of miles away. Mom can watch her son taking his first steps, even though she is deployed overseas. In most instances, it’s a matter of simply taking the picture or video with your mobile device and uploading it to the service you use. Instructions on how to upload a video to YouTube or uploading to Vimeo are easy to find online.
If you’re more traditional and still prefer framed pictures, you may want to consider giving a digital frame to your loved ones. Traditionally, these types of frames feature a slideshow of photographs that have been uploaded to the device via a USB connection or are displayed via a memory card. However, newer digital frames support the use of Bluetooth, cellular and other wireless technology to share files. Some wifi-enabled frames can even load images from the Internet via email or photo-sharing sites. Some can even share files with one another. With so many options, you may want to do a little research on how to buy a digital photo frame in order to determine which one is best for your family.
Perhaps one of the most inventive ways to use technology is to help your family grow closer in your spiritual walks. Beyond simply texting your child a daily Bible verse, you may discover many spiritual tools available online to access via mobile phones and tablets. The United Methodist Church has many discipleship resources that parents can use to enhance their children’s faith. Many Sunday school curricula, such as the UMC Deep Blue Kids Curriculum, now offer extra features for parents to use at home, including apps, mobile-friendly videos and games that can be used to reinforce Sunday’s lessons. In addition, many churches post daily devotionals and other resources. In fact, you can even use the Internet to find free or low-cost books, articles and other information on spiritual topics to discuss with your family.
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Technology has benefits, but technology also has risks. Parents should take every precaution to keep kids safe from the dangers online. Since nothing can take the place of face-to-face time with your family, you also should consider how much time should be spent on social media. But this fact remains. Technology doesn’t have to draw us apart. If used wisely, it can, in fact, help us create more meaningful connections.
— Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.