When the kids are in their rooms texting with their friends, your spouse is programming the DVR (digital video recorder) for game night and your work associates are calling your cell to check on tomorrow's big presentation, it's hard to see how technology helps bring families closer together. If it weren't for the kitchen table and pepperoni pizza, you'd probably never see each other at all. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but pundits who criticize technology as destructive to family traditions like Sunday dinner and movie night might be seeing a darker truth in the proliferation of tech wizardry. There's a flip side to the doom and gloom, though.
Technology -- whether it's a GPS locator or a digital photo frame -- is a tool, and some new tools and technologies are shrinking the distance between granny and the kids -- virtually. Technology, working in conjunction with social media, is driving some of the changes we're seeing. Cell phones are making it easy to take candid photos, videos and sound bites, while sites like Youtube and Facebook, and platforms like Blogger and Wordpress are providing venues for all that new content. It's true your tween may want to lock you out of some of her Facebook communications (that might be worth some supervision), but it's just as likely you'll be using your own Facebook account to compile a list of suggestions for this year's family reunion or reconnect with a second cousin you haven't seen in a while.
Once the reunion is a memory, you can transform those hundreds of digital photos into a digital scrapbook using sites like Computer Scrapbook. Everyone in your contact list can enjoy it, and no trees will have perished in the process. You can also take the easy route and just load your pics to photo sites like Flickr where they'll be easy to store, share and compile into fun and versatile slideshows.
Connecting with Family
If a friend or relative has a birthday coming up, you can send an e-card in minutes, and that card can be personalized with an audio message, photograph or text message. Better yet, card sites like 123Greetings offer their services free or for a low monthly fee. It's true you might have sent a card to your brother in Kansas anyway, but now you can send one to your great uncle and those third cousins, too -- if you can remember all their names.
Sites like 123People and Wink will locate friends and relatives you've lost touch with. If you want to take a more subtle approach, maintain your Facebook wall and they may find you using services like Spokeo that rely heavily on social networking databases in their people searches.
If you want to make a real time connection with a family member far away, Skype is a telephony service that provides instant messaging, phone and video conferencing services. You can talk to mom and dad in real time over the computer -- and once you teach dad how to use the webcam on his new laptop -- you can see them, too.
If you have a deeper interest in exploring your family tree, genealogy sites like ancestry.com can assist you in discovering more about your background. After you uncover a few new clues in the old family Bible, you can post them to the site for others to use in their own searches. It's an ingenious way to grow strong branches on your family tree that everyone can appreciate and enjoy.
The Internet and mobile devices are making it easier for families to keep in touch in some ways, and digital tools are keeping the connection versatile and user friendly. You may not see your son hanging around the family room on Saturday afternoon, but if he calls your cell asking you to bring him a sandwich in his bedroom, don't be too shocked. Actually, it may be kind of flattering to be invited into the inner sanctum every once in a while.
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- Abaya, Carol. "Technology can help elders and their families communicate more efficiently." Newsroom New Jersey. 4/11/11. (2/22/12). http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/healthquest/technology-can-help-elders-and-their-families-communicate-more-efficiently
- Microsoft.com. "Connecting Generations." 2012. (2/22/12). http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9796878
- Pew Research Center. "Why Americans Use Social Media." 11/15/11. (2/22/12). http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2131/social-media-facebook-twitter-myspace-linkedin
- Raffle, Hayes. "Exploring Family Communication and Technology Use with an Eye to Design." Nokia Research Center Palo Alto. (2/22/12). http://www.hayesraffle.com/wp-content/uploads/ames-nokia-family-communication-cscw2008-workshop.pdf
- Science Direct. "The Family and Communication Technologies. 2009. (2/22/12). http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/ast/files/little_ijhcs_2009.pdf
- Small, Gary M.D. "Is Technology Fracturing Your Family?" Psychology Today. 6/19/09. (2/22/12). http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-bootcamp/200906/is-technology-fracturing-your-family