Family Bonds: How To Use Tech As A Tool For Connection | Janell Burley Hofmann | 2 Min Read

As a mother of five children ages 14-22, some of my favorite ways to stay connected with my teens and young adults is through our technology. I don’t necessarily mean a literal connection like always being available to respond or knowing exact geolocation. I mean emotional connection that is enhanced by the tech. This can feel counterintuitive based on how we’ve been taught to worry about screen time and overuse, but it’s actually a practice and philosophy, allowing families to use screens with purpose and the tools of tech for the greater good.  

Often we overlook the benefits of our shared technology and the ways our relationships are developed or deepened because of it. I invite families to take a personal inventory into the ways screen use may be benefiting your life, improving connection, or helping create better understanding of one another. Below you will find my own inventory and offerings to using tech to connect. 

  1. Sports Scores & Stories: fandom is a beautiful way to bond and share interests, stay engaged and ride the wave of wins & losses. Of course fandom goes beyond just sports and can be applied to so many areas of culture. 
  1. Music: a release of a new album, found footage on the Internet of an old favorite, a cover from a favorite artist, making a specialized playlist are all fun ways to connect over artistic interests. It’s never been easier to discover and share music together. 
  1. Celebrating Community: sharing local news about friends, schools, universities and community members you know is a great way to connect. 
  1. Hot Topics: cultural and social issues, articles, videos and accounts can be a great way to build emotional and social intelligence. Often, this leads to great discussion points and open dialogue in person. 
  1. Streaming: share a show and watch together, get excited for the release of new episodes or seasons or watch remotely and debrief together. 
  1. Family Group Chats: keeping everyone connected and giving everyone a chance to participate in sharing what’s going on in their own world is a way to strengthen relationships and stay informed on each other’s lives. Also, a great opportunity to get grandparents involved or other extended family members. 
  1. Humor & Cuteness: There is so much content for every style of humor and adorableness. This can be a great way to brighten someone’s day and let them know you’re thinking about them or you know what they might like to make them smile. 
  1. Gaming: instead of resisting this kind of play, join them! Getting parallel to the things our children like in the digital world is a fantastic way to understand them better and enjoy the tech. 
  1. Learning: the web has countless opportunities for learning, hobbies, academics, skills, solutions, and activities. Finding new interests or enhancing a shared one is incredibly accessible with the Internet. 
  1. Travel & Planning: going on a trip or outing? Sharing information and working together as a family to build the itinerary is a great way to use tech.

Janell Burley Hofmann

Janell Burley Hofmann is an international author, speaker and consultant specializing on the topics of technology, media, health, relationships and well-being. Janell is the creator of the original iPhone contract and a thought leader in the space of digital mindfulness, digital parenting and intentional use of tech. She is the author of the book, iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up published by Rodale, Inc. Janell is the founder of the Slow Tech Movement and iRules Academy. Janell has worked on four continents across diverse demographics, cultures, religions, and socioeconomics. Sensitive to the needs of each community, Janell works with schools, youth, families, educators, and organizations while offering private coaching and consulting sessions. Janell’s professional expertise and personal experience as a mother of five children builds strong connections with a wide and varied population. Janell engages readers, clients and audiences in relevant and meaningful conversations igniting personal empowerment, awareness and purpose in a partnership that will positively impact all. Janell’s academic background includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Media Studies, a Master’s Degree in Critical and Creative Thinking and she is currently working towards her licensure in mental health counseling. Her featured talks include two-time TEDx presenter, SxSW, YPO Southeast Asia Summit, Peace Corp Workshop Leader, Homecoming Day Nagoya University, Nagoya Japan, YPO Middle East Tour, Women2Women International Summit and MIT Strata Center. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Good Morning America, USA Today, National Public Radio, BBC News and The Associated Press.

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