Many parents and educators turn to Smart Social to learn about the negative impacts of social media on teens and tweens. However, there are also many positive impacts social media can have on families.
Are you wondering how families can use technology in a positive way to make a connection between parents and children? We asked 16 parents and tech experts for their ideas and tips for how to incorporate technology into your family time.
1. As a family, find positive influencers to follow
Vincent DeCastro, President of ABM Agency
Engaging in social media with the family can have many positive benefits. It is about showing kids the more positive side of the tools, such as being able to learn about politics where they can learn what political leaders stand for, or using Instagram as a positive influence tool. For example, you can look through body-positive images as a way to help your children see the beauty of all different people. You can also search together for positive influencers who talk about mental health, show self-care, or who are teaching about history and diversity. Introducing your children to these positive sides of social media early on can help them learn more about where they want to put their time as they start to build their own social profiles.
2. Teach and practice good habits early
Beth Pouska, SmartSocial.com
Some communication apps are a great way to help students and grandparents or other family members stay in touch and learn good habits. Introducing an app like Messenger Kids to younger kids on family devices can help them connect with family and real-life friends with the oversight of their parents. They have fun with the photo filters and playing games together while connecting only with the people I approve from my parent account.
We have found this to be a good lesson for learning and practicing good habits with social media and technology. For example, when they hear the sound of a new message during dinner or homework time, their instincts want to check it right away, but we all have to learn and practice good habits. Hopefully, when they are old enough for their own devices these habits will be easier to continue on their own.
3. Create content together rather than consuming it
Devin Schumacher, Founder, SERP
Social media content can be used to build a unique connection between parents and teens. While people are quick to cite the negative impacts of social media on families, there is plenty of good to be had, too. However, it goes beyond simply sharing content with family members. To fully leverage the many positive impacts of social media, set out to create rather than consume digital content.
Creating content is a great way to collaborate together. Sharing posts with family members is nice for a quick laugh, but there’s nothing quite like working together to help parents and teens channel great ideas into enjoyable digital content. It strengthens the family bond and provides a great source of entertainment. Plus, this is beneficial for parents because it fosters trust. As a byproduct, collaborating on content gives you a greater insight as to what type of media your teen is consuming online. You’ll be able to ensure their safety in using social media without overstepping your boundaries as a parent.
4. Using social media to connect with grandparents more often and never miss a birthday
Christopher Adams, Founder, Modest Fish
As a family, we have made use of social media to help us bond, keep tabs (as a parent), and most of all, record memories.
The biggest impact social media has had on our family is the connection that it’s made for our kids with their grandparents. Grandparents will sometimes go an entire year without seeing us, or our children – so you could imagine how lonely they can get at times. They are also not the most tech-savvy, so we had to assist in the initial setup of their platforms.
After making them dedicated Facebook and Instagram accounts, they are now able to see almost daily what their entire family is up to, and easily contact us and the kids – far more frequently than when we would all need to pick up a phone to call. Getting the kids to call their grandparents on their birthdays used to be a chore for them and they would often forget. Now, due to social media and its constant reminders of birthdays, father’s and mother’s days, our grandparents are getting more calls and heartfelt messages than they thought imaginable. There are so many grandparents and older generation folk out there who currently do not have simple access to social media and they don’t even need to fully engage in what it has to offer, but if children and parents would take the little amount of time needed to connect their parents with social media as we have, then I feel that so much more joy could come out of these platforms.
5. Become the influencer that people go to for learning or positivity
Steve Thompson, Owner, Boot Mood Foot
Using social media could lead to the discovery of valuable lessons. Or, be the one to share those values with others. That means you can be an influencer family that promotes positive practices and life lessons to your viewers. I have seen vlogs on my newsfeed about families taping their van life, working on their garden, parents teaching kids to do home chores and more positive vlogs. It feels good to have a glimpse at how other families do things. Or, see their methods in dealing with different situations. It inspired me a few times – so I proposed some weekends working in the yard with my family. Technology lets us see how other people do it, and there’s no denying that we (sometimes) tend to follow what we perceive. There are a few family-oriented social media accounts that are worth following.
6. Understand that social media is part of a teen’s life
Carla Diaz, Cofounder, Broadband Search
People like to talk about the negative impacts of the internet and digital landscapes in general because it’s easy and “shocking” to see just how bad these things can be on human life. Unfortunately, this can cause us to lose sight of how beneficial these technologies can be in today’s world, especially with how accustomed we’ve become to them and how present they are in our everyday lives. When it comes to parents connecting with their teens, this is especially true.
If you let it, social media can definitely cause a divide between you and your teen and prevent you from maintaining a good relationship with them (especially during a time in their life where they aren’t as open with you). Social media can be used as a tool for communication and connection.
While you might not completely understand it, you also have to remember that teens these days have grown up with this type of technology and, to them, it’s an essential part of their lives. If you learn how to utilize social media to stay involved in their lives in a positive way, it can really help your relationship with them.
7. Social media can give you topics to talk about in person
Eden Cheng, Founder, WeInvoice
Reduces risk of estrangement: One of the main benefits of using social media within my family is the fact that long-distance relationships can now be managed better, especially since some of our family members work far from home or study internationally. This means we can now easily communicate and interact, despite being separated by thousands of miles.
Better understanding: The good thing about social media is that it can be considered to be a snapshot of someone’s personality. In other words, it displays a person’s likes, dislikes, opinions, hobbies, habits, etc. This is very useful as it helps me get a better understanding of what other family members like to do or talk about. This is especially important if you have trouble communicating, you can lean on these interests for something to talk about.
Memories: Most social media platforms come with a memories feature which is very useful in helping to remember important moments through video collages, pictures, posts, etc. Since they pop up each year on anniversaries like birthdays, it helps keep nostalgia up and the familial bond strong. Plus it’s easy to forget that it’s your mother’s birthday, but with constant reminders, I am always able to stay on track and pick out an excellent gift to surprise her with!
8. Fun question or conversation starter apps can be entertaining for families
Kavin Wadhar, Kid Coach App
Too often we parents get stuck in a rut of asking transactional questions like “How was school?” or “Have you done your homework?”
But there is some wonderful inspiration on the Internet for quick, fun, and unusual conversation starters. “Would you rather” questions are a firm favorite with many kids. For instance: Would you rather have hands for feet or feet for hands?! As well as launching a memorable conversation, these kinds of discussions help advance key skills, like creativity, communication, and critical thinking. Skills sorely needed by the next generation.
Our app, Kid Coach App, has hundreds of searchable questions by topic and skills, depending on what your kids are into. It also has several prompts in a parenting flashcard to help keep the conversation going. “Would chocolate-flavored rain be good or bad?” went down particularly well with my kids!
Chats like this are quick and easy to do. Some families do them during the school drop-off run, others before going to bed. In our home, we have found the dinner table to be most effective and so we have found a way to use tech for good during the family meal!
Apps like these are easy to grab for quick inspiration, and notifications help remind us to take a break and have some fun when we get 5 minutes of downtime. As one mom said to me: “I don’t mind being alerted to a fun, new conversation starter for my kids – much better than being told someone has just liked something I posted on Facebook!”
9. Social media can act as a memory bank and family photo album
Mike Dragan, COO, Stream.live
Memories: The social media memory function helps families to relive memorable family moments. Every year on the anniversary of the event, photos, videos, tags, check-ins, and other items appear. This will help to keep the feelings of nostalgia and family love alive.
Family bonding: Family members will see what each other is posting on social media. It allows them to bond over common interests. This can also have an effect on real life. It brings family members closer together through mutual interests, hobbies, and other activities.
Families with a single parent: Although divorce is increasingly common, children still need some kind of stability. They yearn for both parents to be present in their lives. Even if parents don’t get along, they can still interact with their children. Using social media for this is, of course, almost normal.
10. Social media is a digital photo book
Sharon Van Donkelaar, CMO, Expandi.io
One of the ways social media has been a great way to connect families is how it has become a digital photo book that allows you to witness the growth of the family even when you are far away. With extended families becoming more and more diverse in terms of living arrangements, getting together physically is an issue and children often do not know their older relatives. Maintaining a social media presence where family members are updated with new additions helps them feel connected to each other. While digital awareness is still a far cry from in-person connections, this is the next best thing that allows large families to know each other and care about each other.
11. Find alternative uses for technology
Kenny Trinh, Managing Editor of Netbooknews
Use a video tutorial for a family activity
Nowadays we watch a lot of how-to videos. Why not use a video tutorial on how to bake a cake or a pizza as a family activity? Everyone will have a part to play, even the little ones, and the family dinner would for sure be a lot more fun.
Shoot a short film or skit
Make a short film or skit of your favorite family movie. Kids could play their favorite characters and the older kids and adults could do all the directing and editing. This would be a nice family project and something you could watch together for years to come.
Video calls instead of instant messages
Face to face interactions is very important, especially for your growing kids. It can impact the level of their confidence and the way they interact with other people.
So as much as possible, do a video call instead of just sending an instant message. Seeing you on the screen and hearing your voice still beats reading a chat or instant message to matter how sweet it is.
Use family organizer apps
These apps have a wide range of really useful functions such as managing family tasks lists, sending schedule reminders, and even making games out of chores.
12. Start group messages with family members
Dr. Rahil Chaudhary, Managing Director of Eye7
Having a family group chat app can make everyone in the (immediate) family feel involved in the family. All families will have an introvert or someone who is out of the loop (by choice mostly). However, even though they hardly contribute to the chat doesn’t mean they are not interested. They can still feel included being a non-contributor – silent partner. This can improve family values immeasurably, as nobody will feel neglected.
13. Watch videos together
Joseph Webster, Soul Series Health
One uplifting way a family can use technology is by practicing something fun and healthy like downloading a meditation app on the computer and learning how to meditate together as a family. Families can also download a whole host of different apps that the family can participate in together. There are apps to learn fun facts about world history and apps that can teach healthy family-friendly exercises. There are also interactive games the family can play as a unit and take turns completing tasks.
14. Positive impact of social media
Andrew Cunningham, Founder of DailyPest
As a father of twin girls, my wife and I have our hands full. That said, our girls love their tablets and other electronics. My wife and I incorporate technology, as much as possible, in our family routines to make life more enjoyable – especially for our two girls.
I’m always busy with my business so I don’t get to spend as much time with them during the weekdays. During lunch hour, though, they call me via video call with their mom. This helps us communicate even when we are apart.
During the weekends, we spend game nights on my tablet playing their favorite apps. We make this a family habit rather than all of us individually holding our gadgets with no interaction at all.
My wife uses YouTube to search for DIY videos to do with my twins when they’re having their mother-daughter bonding time during school breaks. I also join in when I’m not working.
I believe incorporating technology has helped connect our family. It enhances our experiences and makes the time we have with each other more memorable.
15. Use an app to learn a new language together
Jovan Milenkovic, Co-Founder of KommandoTech
There are numerous free apps for learning languages that are quite popular and interactive. A lot of them have daily challenges and require users to be constantly active and, therefore, improve their knowledge. It can be quite interesting for families to gather and start learning a new language as a team. They can push each other to work harder, have fun, and acquire a new, highly useful skills.
16. Host family game nights
Luka Arezina, Co-Founder of DataProt
One of my favorite ways in which technology positively impacts families is the use of chat groups on WhatsApp or Facebook. It especially goes well for families scattered around the world. Instead of multiple, one-on-one messages to each family member, a group will mean less work when it comes to keeping everyone informed. It will also create a space for interaction. It’s similar to gathering in the same room and having a conversation that is open to everyone – an important and needed family time that ultimately uplifts all involved.
Another cool way of using technology for an uplifting time is playing Just Dance with your family. Just Dance is an app that uses the movement tracker on your phone to send to the viewing device information. While the song on your TV is playing, you imitate the movement of the person on-screen. Players are rated based on how successfully they reproduce the moves. You can connect multiple phones to the same dance party, which guarantees some healthy competition and fun family time.
17. Showing support on social media goes a long way
Marques Thomas, CEO and Founder, Query Sprout
Bonding with the family is very important. And contrary to popular belief, social media can also forge better family bonds if done right. If you are unable to show support in person, doing it on social media is possible through public comments and simple tagging. In addition to this, social media helps connect families through messaging platforms. Family chat groups are no longer new in this social media era.
Game time, easy communication, and family movie nights are just a few of the ways families can use technology for a positive impact. It can be scary to think of giving our teens and tweens access to the internet with so much dangerous content out there. But if you have open and honest conversations with your students about the dangers of social media, and use it together as a family, you can help keep your students safe.