Fun ways technology can connect you with family and friendsWritten by Bret Eckelberry
What's inside this article
So – you’re stuck at home like the rest of us. Depending on your personality, you may be comfortable with that fact or on the verge of pulling your hair out. Regardless, it can be tough for anyone to be cooped up in one place for too long. Especially when it prevents us from spending quality time with our loved ones.
Fortunately, today’s technology gives us so many ways to facilitate contact and conversation with others, even if it is on a screen. Now, we’re not here to recommend specific apps to use. And we won’t be listing out the pros and cons of different tech (for that, check out the Parent’s Guide to Technology from Plugged In). But we hope that we can make you aware of some of the technology available to you, along with some ideas to be intentional and stay connected with your friends and family during this isolated time.
Tools of the trade
There are many ways you can connect with your loved ones, and those tools are right at your fingertips! Of course, you’re familiar with calling and texting, and you probably do this often. But what if you’re looking for something face-to-face (albeit on a screen)? That’s where video chat applications (apps) come in.
There are a variety of apps that you can choose from, such as: Facetime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, Google Duo and Marco Polo. These are just a few of the options available to you. Each one does things slightly differently, so you’ll want to choose the app that best fits what you want to accomplish.
FaceTime is one of the first video chat apps for smartphones. This app supports up to 32 people on a call and it comes pre-installed on every iPhone, iPad and Mac. However, it is exclusive to Apple products, so it won’t work for anyone with an Android phone.
The social media app, Facebook, comes with a messenger feature that you can use to keep in touch with anyone who has a Facebook account. You can video chat with up to 50 people in a group. Messenger also works just like texting, but without any texting fees.
WhatsApp is a messaging app that uses your phone or computer’s WiFi to send and receive messages. You can send text messages or record voice messages, take part in video calls and send documents to other people using the app.
Zoom is a popular meeting app that works across most platforms. However, the free version of this app limits groups of three or more people to a maximum of 40 minutes for video chats.
Another video chat app that has been around awhile, Skype is available on most platforms and supports international calling and texting. You can also have up to 50 people on a Skype video call.
Google Duo is an easy-to-use app that works on both Android phones and iPhones. This app often is pre-installed on Android phones, so check to see if you already have it. A maximum of eight people are allowed on a Duo video call.
Through the Marco Polo app, you can leave pre-recorded messages for your friends and family to view whenever they’re available and vice versa. This makes it like a video version of a text message.
Most of these apps can be accessed via smartphone, computer or both. Each one comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, and you should do your research on the one that best fits your needs. If you have young kids in the home who will be using these apps, be sure to check out the security options and parental controls offered with each.
Let’s connect with technology
So, now you have the tools you need to keep in touch with your friends and family. But how can you use it to reach out and connect in fun and meaningful ways? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Pursue a prayer group
Stay connected with friends and family on a spiritual level through praying together. Set a time – could be once a week, could be once a day – that works for everyone to get together as a group. Share praises and prayer requests. Talk through them together. Then, take turns praying for each other. Public prayer, even over video chat, can be a powerful thing and a great way to stay connected with one another.
Make a movie night
Watching movies with loved ones can be a lot of fun – and you don’t necessarily have to be in the same place to enjoy it together! Pick a movie and organize a watch party. It could be a timeless classic that everyone enjoys or a cheesy movie just begging to be made fun of – it’s up to you! Start up a commentary on the movie with each other through text or watch each other’s reactions through a video call.
Do a devotion
Take some time to share a devotion with those close to you. There is no set time limit you must hit with your devotion. It could be a simple thought, a quote, or a passage that God has laid on your heart. It could also be a full-fledged digital Bible study group if you want that, too. Respond to what God is calling you to share. You never know the impact it may have! And if you happen to be looking for family devotion options, we’ve got you covered.
Set up a scavenger hunt
This type of scavenger hunt may look a little bit different than what you’re used to, but it can be just as fun! Challenge friends to find all sorts of items from around the house. It can be anything from a remote, paper clips, a Bible – even a Christmas ornament! When someone finds something, they can take a picture or video of it to send to the group. The first person to find everything on the list is the winner – maybe the prize is to pick the next movie you all watch together!
Get creative with encouragement
Step up your encouragement game! Some video apps allow you to leave messages for one another, so you can use this to leave uplifting messages here and there. Know someone who is feeling isolated? Send them a message letting them know they’re not alone. Is someone feeling discouraged? Make a short video telling them about the things you appreciate about them. You can even make a video sharing a Scripture verse that means a lot to you. Think of these as little notes of encouragement, but in the digital space!
Host a “how-to”
Do you have a particular skill that you would like to share? Maybe you’re a great cook and have some tasty recipes to pass along. If you’re handy, you could show others how to do routine maintenance around the house. Perhaps you paint or play an instrument. Whatever it is, now is a great time to share it with your friends and family. Take turns demonstrating all the useful skills you have in a group and see what you learn!
More than ever before, we can stay connected, even when we are apart. It may not be ideal, but sometimes difficult situations can put our connectedness with others (or lack thereof) into perspective. The key here is intentionality. Talk with your friends and family, come up with some great ideas to stay connected, and then use today’s technology to make it happen.
Bret Eckelberry serves as the Project Manager for Education Issues at Focus on the Family in the U.S. and helps facilitate Bring Your Bible to School Day. He and his wife live in Colorado.
© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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