Technology is already a member of the family. It's with us when we wake up, go to work and school, socialize and schedule our lives from sun-up to sun-down. Often, we spend our tech time in solitude, though, taking turns on the home computer or holing away with a PDA and tablet to do our own thing. Maybe part of having technology run in the family can include sharing technology as a family, but how?
Most of us can get behind a little "we" time with some Wii time, but other tech activities can bring the family together while forging some new traditions. Whether you're a Tumblr, Skyper, gamer or stargazer, gadgets and gizmos can go from lone pursuits to family activities in a few simple steps.
According to a 2011 survey on blogging, about half of all people who blog are parents. Add to that the number of kids and young adults who blog themselves -- and who also have parents -- and it's pretty likely that a great deal of talent and creativity can be found all under one roof. A family blog or more condensed microblog can be a family platform for news, photos and funny stories to publish publically or just for friends and relatives.
Updates to the blog or Web site might be handled as a team, with a set day and time for getting together and contributing to stories and taking photos, or each member of the family can have an assigned slot posting stories and photos. Keeping the tech side, or the actual publishing function, a shared duty, as well, can help keep older family members (mom or dad perhaps) in the loop on what the kids are learning. Some families have made such a tradition of blogging that their children have practically grown up in the blog-light.
Families have long had traditions centered on road trips to see the grandparents or family outings with the cousins and other kin, but many visits are turning virtual. It's cool that grandma and grandpa can keep up on Twitter and Facebook and that your 4-year-old niece can video chat, but how can long-distance connections become new family traditions?
Setting an appointment for family may not seem very intimate, but having a time when everyone sits down together to Skype or chat in real time can have a twofold purpose. You can benefit by having your immediate family all in the same room at the same time -- maybe even before or after a shared meal -- and a loved one on the other end of the camera can enjoy catching up with everyone at once and soaking in the dynamic of the family together.
Many of us grew up with the Sunday night phone call from grandma and later from our own moms and dads, and we can do the same now, but with video, too, even across time zones and continents.
Game systems may be the most social high-tech development of recent decades. Though you can play most games alone or one-on-one, many center on group participation and a more-the-merrier design. Families once gathered around a radio for family entertainment, later sharing TV movies on what used to be family night Fridays or Sundays, and early game systems and games like Pong and Atari had families coming together around technology, too.
An advantage to some of the high-tech offerings today is that many involve physical activity or fitness, while getting to see dad shake his groove thing, for example, and other games pit members of the same family against each other, creating healthy competition and a reason to keep playing.
Some high-tech gaming is actually old-school, low-tech with a twist, as when an uncle in Europe can play chess with a nephew in Florida, for instance, all online. Joining a fantasy sports league is another way to connect family across the house or across the globe while still playing in the same game, whether on opposing teams or not.
Geocaching has been described as a "scavenger hunt with a high-tech twist" by Family Circle magazine, and not only does that cover the game and technology part, it also adds an outdoor or travel element for the family. One advantage to taking up this hobby/game is that it doesn't require a lot of cost beyond purchasing a Global Positioning System (GPS) for finding hidden stashes, called caches (rhymes with "cashes"). From the largest to the smallest locales, geocache players have set up and hidden containers to find, and anyone from the youngest to the oldest in the family can get in on the hunt.
Two older high-tech pastimes for families may seem a bit low-tech in this age of the GPS, but star-gazing with telescopes and communicating with fellow HAM radio enthusiasts are two more ways members of a family can get together around technology and make a tradition of identifying galaxies, awaiting comet action and just picking up frequencies from some good old-fashioned, and home-fashioned electronics.
A source of pride for many families today is seeing the spark of ingenuity and interest in things technical among young people. Even when just one or two members of a family take an interest in dreaming up tele-transport systems or wiring a smart house with a central remote -- which may or may not work -- getting behind the aspiring minds can be a family tradition in itself. Making a student project or competition something the entire family gets excited about maybe even year after year gives kids confidence and older family members pride and some ownership in seeing the next generation grow up in a high-tech world.
Some organizations, such as FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) continue the tradition of the science fair from generations past, but with a focus on getting young people excited about technology, math and sciences. Instead of the Styrofoam solar systems and cardboard rockets of decades ago, recent winners have designed prosthetic arms and robots. And, the U.S. president hosts the White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country.
Creating high-tech traditions around just being a techie may benefit the family and advance technology itself. You might even get to blow stuff up, in the name of science, of course.
What does smartphone addiction look like in an older person? Read this HowStuffWorks article to find out.
More Great Links
- Bair, Diane and Wright, Pamela. "Geocaching for Families." FamilyCircle.com. 2012. (Feb. 18, 2012) http://www.familycircle.com/family-fun/travel/geocaching/
- Boyd, Hannah. "Why You Should Start a Family Blog." Education.com. 2012. (Feb. 18, 2012) http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Thinking_Starting_Family_Blog/
- First.org. "FIRST Students Invited to Second Annual White House Science Fair." First.org. Feb. 6, 2012. (Feb. 20, 2012) http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/first-students-invited-to-second-annual-white-house-science-fair
- Technorati Media. "State of the Blogosphere 2011." Technorati.com. Nov. 4, 2011. (Feb. 18, 2012) http://technorati.com/social-media/article/state-of-the-blogosphere-2011-part1/