5 Ways Technology Can Actually Help You Spend More Time with Your Family During the Holidays

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I’ll be the first to admit that technology can be the worst thing for a family. Texting at the dinner table, scrolling through Instagram when my mom is trying to talk to me, and even worse, settling for Facebook chat with my boyfriend instead of meeting up with him in person. These are ways that technology has distanced us from experiencing raw, human connection.

Although we usually associate technology as being the very thing that takes us away from our families, I am here to play the devil’s advocate and show you how you can best optimize technology to actually increase engagement with your family this holiday season.

  1. Smartphone Games

Games are one of the best ways to engage with your family. They bring a sense of togetherness, friendly competition and connection. In this day and age, kids and teenagers are now more likely to engage in games on their phone than in person. Here are some online games you can play on your smartphone with your kids, siblings, or even friends from near or far:

  • Chess With Friends – perfect for creating healthy competition.
  • PirateFleet for Friends – like the online version of Battleship!
  • Four in a Row – perfect for kids 8 and under! Like checkers.
  • The Game of Life – if you’ve ever played the board game version, it’s the same but online.
  • Tic Tac Toe – everyone loves this one!
  • Fruit Ninja – multiplayer, but you must play this game with your loved ones in person.
  1. Long-Distance Chat Apps

Not all of us have the privilege of living close to our loved ones. Many of us have family members that are either off at college, or live in other states or countries. Lucky for us, we now live in the 21st century where we have the ability to stay connected to our families from a distance. If you have relatives such as grandparents or parents who are older than 60 years of age, recommend and teach them how to use the cloud-based applications listed below. Not only will they be amazed with the technology, but they will feel joy to be able to connect with their loved ones; especially during the holidays.

Take advantage of these apps to talk with and see your loved ones over the holidays:

  • WhatsApp – this app allows you to message friends and family from other countries without any additional fees.
  • Skype – use this app to video call your family and friends from a distance.
  • Facetime – only available to iPhone users, but this is the fastest and most convenient way to quickly see your loved one’s face.
  • Ustyme – this app allows you to not only video chat your loved ones, but play games with them at the same time!
  1. Cooking ‘Smartly’

Encourage your kids to put their iPhone or tablet to good use this year

  • in the kitchen! There are many cooking apps that you can now download which are more interactive and interesting than an old recipe book. Since the holidays are all about cooking up tasty treats, use these apps to get your kids and loved ones in the kitchen for a family cooking activity.
  • Tender
  • Food Network In The Kitchen
  • Appetites
  • Epicurious
  1. Volunteer Apps

The holidays are not called ‘the season of giving’ for no reason! Take the time this holiday season to volunteer in your local community and to motivate your family to get involved as well. There are many apps that can encourage getting actively involved. Download these apps and see what you and your family can do this holiday season to lend a helping hand.

  1. Reading Christmas Stories

In my family growing up, it was a tradition to read a story every night in the month of December. You could implement this tradition into your own family, and have an excuse to spend just ten minutes a day together as a family. Since you might not have access to Christmas stories, put your kindle or tablet to good use and take advantage of your online selection! You can find stories on the following apps:

This holiday season remember to use technology to your advantage. Although we associate technology as being something that can often disconnect us, embrace technology this holiday season as a tool to bring your family closer together!



New Tool May Help Solve the Teen Mental Health Crisis

Tool for Teen Mental Health Crisis

As rates of mental health issues in teens reach epidemic proportions, a new intervention that reframes the way they view stressors shows great promise in improving both psychological and physiological health.

Given the exponentially growing mental health crisis among teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with several other medical organizations, recently declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.

While many societal factors are being implicated, researchers at the University of Rochester recently conducted a study that focused on the ordinary, day-to-day stresses that teens face, such as how they’re perceived by others.

Psychologist Jeremy Jamieson, who headed up the study, told the University of Rochester News Center, “For adolescents, social hierarchy, social comparisons, and peer evaluations have always been important, but now it’s there all the time… people are receiving a daily stream of likes, dislikes, and comments via social media, which makes for a constant state of social evaluation. it’s one of the most damaging things we’ve seen for adolescents.”

While these “social-evaluative stressors” can lead directly to depression and anxiety, it is how teens deal with them, experts say, that determines the psychological outcome.

While conventional thinking equates stress with something “bad,” Jamieson says, “stress is a normal and even defining feature of adolescence… for those of us who study processes and psychophysiology, stress is just any demand for change — it’s neither good nor bad.”

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