Spending the holidays as a family and overindulging in the broad range of modern technology available don’t generally go hand in hand. More often than likely, one infringes on the other and leaves much to be desired. With figures of more than five billion people owning mobile devices (Silver, 2019) and 58% of the world’s population being active internet users, it’s no doubt technology is becoming as common in usage as any other everyday household item. As huge as those numbers are, we should bear in mind to not let it surpass the sentiment and tradition associated with the holidays. Holidays are still considered to be a sacred time for many families. The perks of getting together with your family all boil down to a very basic advantage; getting to spend time with your loved ones.
Whether it’s the entire family getting together to decorate the house, or huddling around a cosy campfire, children and parents exchange key attributes that nurture them emotionally and physically. Children model off their parents’ behaviour, and so, by participating in engaging and pleasant activities during the holiday season, parents can set a good example for their children. An example could be taking the time to volunteer for your local community, or giving away some of your older (but still usable) clothes or household items this holiday season! And encourage your family to participate too! Knowing the real holiday spirit comes from giving back and supporting those in need, families can teach children social empathy and altruism. This encourages children to grow up to be responsible and helpful members of the community.
The integration of technology is not traditionally terrible; without a doubt, it has bought ease and comfort in our lives. Classic holiday traditions continue to be popular through the ages, while at the same time, technology-inspired pastimes are beginning to emerge. Although it’s a common impression that technology disconnects rather than connects, here’s a guide for you to become closer to the family through technology this holiday season!
Technology and travel go hand and hand. These days, we do almost everything on our mobile phones, especially so when we are travelling! From the initial choice of vacation spots, planning the itinerary, to using Google Maps to find our way around the cities, to sharing photos, videos and even leaving reviews after the trip!
It is so prevalent that according to a Google Travel study, 74% of travellers plan their trips on the Internet, while only 13% still use travel agencies to prepare their trip (Klaassen, Articles, 2019).
For slightly older kids, what better way for them to make good use of their time on the Internet than to help you do some research for itinerary planning!
Gone are the days when you have to write names down on little pieces of paper and gathering your friends and families to draw the names of the “giftee” they have to buy Christmas gifts for. With the rise of technology, many people are now opting to use Secret Santa websites for their annual Christmas gift exchange!
Although it may be considered a minor one, an advantage that comes with watching television as a family fulfills a social function and encourages communication to some degree. Watching TV is a way for the family to spend their time together as a form of social interaction and can be viewed as a group activity with the ability to strengthen familial relationships, through which the family becomes close-knit. This interaction can also play a role in bringing the family members together and shaping one another’s time spent more positively.
Family movies like Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Nightmare Before Christmas are a few classic examples. These movies are cemented in the hall of fame due to their reputation in rendering wholesome content for the family to enjoy collectively.
Technology keeps families connected. A vast majority of people use media devices to communicate or interact with each other. We may not recognise it, but it’s fast becoming an important resource for preserving familial relationships and for catching up with family members who are physically distant.
Popular video calling apps such as Skype and FaceTime act as a huge communication medium for families to stay in touch. Even though the family member(s) may not be physically present, these video calls allow them to be “involved” and participate in the celebration with everyone. Such communication medium help to bridge the distance and make overseas family members feel home away from home, especially so on festive seasons such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is a huge advantage for families living far away.
Facebook is another effective way for people to instantly send holiday cheers to multiple people. According to the data collected over recent years, social media usage increases exponentially over the holiday seasons (Penn, 2017). Facebook and Instagram can also provide parents with insight into peoples, places, and things that matter to their child and help in increasing the topics to converse about between family members.
In several families growing up, it was the tradition to read a story every night in December. You could bring this tradition into your own family and have an excuse to spend just ten minutes a day as a family together. Put your kindle or tablet to good use and get access to Christmas stories such as The Little Match Girl or A Christmas Carol. Given the vast selections available online, there will always be a story for everyone!
Games are among the family’s favourite ways to engage with each other. They bring a sense of unity, friendly competition, and cooperation. Children and teens are now more likely to play sports on their phone in this day and age, than in person. Find multi-player games (such as Mario Kart or Overcooked) on Wii or PlayStation gaming consoles for the whole family to participate in. The physical activity combined with teamwork and collaborative effort is a good source for family interaction.
Alternatively, there are numerous mobile apps and games with a wide appeal such as Heads Up, Draw Something, or Song Pop! Split up in teams and challenge each other for some more family fun!
The assistance of technology comes as a great resource that helps to spread joy among your loved ones. Many people still use emails to send gift cards to their relatives and closed ones. We may not send many cards by mail anymore, but sending cards and notes are still a good way to remind people we don’t see often that we love them.
Using mobile apps such as Canva, you can teach your child to design simple greeting cards! Alternatively, capturing moments such as the first snow or a candid laughter can make an interesting canvas for your family greeting card too!
Another simpler way is to send an e-card. Get your child to send free e-cards with festive greetings and well wishes to their grandparents and relatives! Encourage them to send something back in return. By encouraging your child to communicate with his grandparents and relatives, you show your child that family relationships matter.
No longer are the days of plain old boring string lights around the house. With the introduction of smart devices in the home, like Alexa, you can have a teched-out festive home. Now lights can be connected to your smart device and can play to make your festive decorations blink and dance in tune with the music. In addition to that, you can control the colours of the lights and determine the brightness of the lights through smart devices.
The smart device outlets also allow you to control the timing of the holiday decoration. You don’t have to think about unplugging the tree or turning off the light decor outside before going to bed.
From communication and handling busy schedules to entertainment and shopping, technology impacts holiday traditions and has the potential to create new ones. For a majority of people, family comes first and bonding with their family is a top priority. However, it cannot be denied that the continued excessive use of technology has shifted some of these priorities. So, come this holiday season, remember to use technology to your advantage.
To ensure that meaningful moments aren’t taken away from excessive device use, set some ground rules ahead of time. Explain to your family or friends on why it is necessary to have some rules in place, perhaps even involve them in coming up with “no screen time” ideas. Some common rules are keeping devices away during mealtimes, or other activities such as games night where everyone’s participation is required.
Technology can be both; it can provide connections, but it can also destroy those connections, it can create virtual relationships at the expense of drifting away from your genuine loved ones whilst also helping you connect with other relations. And so, like any good thing, it is important to use it in moderation; to reap the benefits and shun the disadvantages! Happy holidays!
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