Some people would cringe after hearing what I’m about to say, but I’m going to stick with my opinion here:
A good deal of my family’s best bonding time is spent on electronics.
I used to think of technology – television, computers, mobile phones, iPads, iTouches, etc – as isolating devices. Often they are. But when used properly, they can connect the generations in ways that some face-to-face interaction fails.
Note: I am not saying that we shouldn’t turn off the computers, get out of the house, and enjoy some good old fashioned fun together. I place great value on the outings that we take together, the car rides to and from practices, the errands that we run together, and the meals that we cook side by side. We eat dinner together every night, with all 7 of us squeezing around the table. There are no phones or iPads or computers at dinner. Just us.
There is a time and a place for technology in the family, just as there are times where it’s appropriate to turn it all off. The key is balance and knowing when it’s the “right time.”
Below are a few of my favorite occasions to keep the devices turned on to increase family bonding…
How we use technology to build our family bonds:
- Texting – I fought texting for many years. I didn’t want to get into the “craze” and didn’t see any reason to pay the extra money on my cell phone bill. Then my oldest daughter entered her teen years. We got a very basic pre-paid phone (by basic, I mean that she could make and receive calls and texts. That’s it.) and because we could text three times for the same price as a single one-minute call, we encouraged texting to check in (when she was ready to be picked up, etc). It didn’t take long for me to become a true believer.
Flash forward a couple of years. While I am still not an avid texter in general, I use texting regularly to communicate with my teen. it’s a “language” that teens are comfortable with and accept. Texting may open a door of communication for a parent that normally would be closed.
- The Wii – CandyMan, my husband, was adamantly against owning a gaming system for years. After I successfully exercised with my friend’s Wii for a period of months, I was able to convince CandyMan that a gaming system was not all bad. We have spent more time laughing, dancing, and playing together with the Wii than ever before. I have made it a point to only purchase games that can be played together.
- Skype – I love the way that Skype connects family members wherever they are – whether Mom or Dad are on a business trip, or the kids want to talk with their cousins in another state. One of our frequent uses of Skype, since CandyMan and I both work at home (with offices on different floors), is to send messages or quick questions back and forth via Skype. It’s silly but it works.
- eBooks – Our Kindles and kindle apps on other devices have awakened the love of reading in my kids….and reading together. My two youngest kids love to see books on my iPad, and so we are spending more time reading out loud together than we have in a long time.
- Touch devices and Apps – We currently have an iPad, an Android tablet, two iTouches, an iPhone, and an Android phone in our house. They are each full of apps and games. While those games have typically been played alone, we recently discovered an app called Draw Something (available in both the iTunes store and the Android marketplace – now Google Play). We have installed it on all of the touch screen devices and have multiple games going on within the family. We have So. Much. Fun.
For the last several nights after dinner, the entire family has congregated in the family room where we have sprawled out on couches and chairs and on the floor, helping each other guess pictures and then draw pictures to send off to someone across the room. CandyMan and I used to play card and board games together for hours way back when….but the kids just don’t seem to have the patience or the interest to regularly play card or board games together. Ages differences stand out, and people get frustrated. Not so with Draw Something. Everyone is enjoying themselves equally.
The main reason that all of these things work – at least for us – is that the technology captures the kids’ attention. By reaching out to our kids WITH technology rather than trying to fight it, we are speaking their language and meeting on common ground. Because let’s face it, I am a technology-connected mama. I might as well use my knowledge of and ease around my gadgets to build bridges and strengthen my bonds with my kids.
For us, it is working just perfectly.
What are your favorite ways to bond through technology?
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