Happy at-home holidays! This year, socializing is taking place online more than ever. We’re physically distanced yet want to connect with friends and family at this special time of year. Recreation time is different too; lots of the places we like to hang out aren’t open or have severely limited capacity.
Youth are feeling that same pull to connect with friends and find ways to have fun. How can families find creative ways to meet those needs? A team of experts from the University of California, Irvine, researches the connections between social media and youth wellbeing. Dr. Mimi Ito is a cultural anthropologist studying youth and new media practices. She is the co-founder of Connected Camps. Dr. Stephen Schueller is a clinical psychologist whose work includes the evaluation and implementation of digital mental health products. Here are their six tips for leveraging technology for fun and family connections this holiday season.
Find time to recharge yourself and find rest and respite in addition to virtual cheer. During this holiday season, virtual hangouts are a great way to connect yet stay safe given the need to physically distance and observe various stay-at-home orders. However, virtual hangouts can lead to stress the same way that too many in-person events could. Don’t try to be connected all the time, or think that you can go to all the hang outs.
Make time to practice focus and attention between virtual events, possibly doing a brief mindfulness exercise before or after a virtual event. An app might help you with that. Some of our favorite mindfulness and resilience apps are Thought Ninja, Headspace, and Stop, Breathe, Think.
Reflect on your own needs. Social relationships help provide us with various things: connectedness, understanding, venting. Some of these aspects might translate more easily to virtual get togethers or virtual spaces than others. If you’re leaving virtual hangouts feeling drained rather than rejuvenated, or disappointed rather than satisfied, reflect on what you feel like you’re missing out on.
Recreating family traditions in digital spaces (or creating new ones) could be a great way to stay connected to family around the holidays.
Tap the power of the Internet to pursue a family learning goal. New years is a great time to set up a shared mastery goal, which can be much more fun than a pleasure-denying resolution. One year, Mimi and her son decided to geek out on learning about, eating, and making pizza for the year, and to blog about it. This created opportunities for family bonding throughout the year.
Enlist other families for digital game nights. Scribble.io or Among Us are perfect for two families to get together, and are accessible for even non-gamer parents and kids. Set up a Google Hangout or Zoom call so you can be chatting while you are playing the game. Even educators are playing Among Us now.
Use social media for enhancement, not escape. The holidays can be both a joyful time and a challenging time. Social media is filled with people’s highlights, and those highlights might be particularly difficult to see during the holidays. Be self-aware when you’re on social media, and notice how it’s affecting you.
Try to use social media to reinforce seasonal expressions of gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation.
Venture into new platforms and set up a family Slack or Discord group. These tools let you share memes, videos, photos, and news. Set up channel like #random for funny things, #dogs to post cute pix of your pets, or #shopping to post hints about what you might like for Christmas. Invite the extended family too! No appointments necessary, unlike Zoom or Facetime, and you can just share or respond when it’s convenient. Or if you’re even more ambitious, set up a family Discord server! Slack and Discord both let you stay in touch in a lightweight and topical way, so it feels different than texting or Facetime, and both are more intimate than Instagram or Facebook.
Technology is the tool that has made 2020 tolerable. These tips should help you leverage tech to enjoy the holidays as we all eagerly count down to the New Year!