Stay connected with your loved ones away at school with these family-friendly tech tips.
By: Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Millions of students are gearing up to go away for college this year. With many students choosing to attend schools far from home, it’s sometimes difficult for families to communicate and stay connected. Luckily, technology and digital tools can help you keep in contact.
Here are 10 ways to stay in touch with your college kids all year long.
1. Start a Family Blog
Blogs are a powerful way for families to stay in touch. “As busy parents, we simply do not have the time to send out cards and letters stuffed with pictures every time we have news to share,” She Knows explains. Like a digital postcard or virtual sticky note, blogging is a quick and easy way to keep each other updated on announcements and milestones, like acing a test or joining a sorority. There are several platforms, including Wix, Medium and Squarespace that offer easy-to-use templates requiring no programming skills. Need inspiration? Check out these Top 25 Family Blogs from Circle of Moms to get you started.
2. Collaborate on a Spotify Playlist
Music is a unique way to share a mood with loved ones. Streaming service Spotify has a feature called collaborative playlists, in which the whole family can add songs. You can create themed playlists around family functions or holidays, or simply share music that brings back memories of childhood, road trips and inside jokes. Tom’s Guide has an guide on how to start your playlist.
3. Listen to the Same Podcast
NPR One connects you to a stream of public radio podcasts that the family can listen to together — from anywhere! Using your Contour voice remote, launch the app by saying “NPR,” “NPR One,” “NPR app,” “Launch NPR app,” or “National Public Radio.” You can also access NPR One in the “Apps” section of the Contour guide. We’ve put together a list of our favorite NPR One podcasts, including Snap Judgment and This American Life that offer great entertainment and opportunities for conversation afterwards.
4. Group FaceTime
If you’re an iPhone user, you’re probably already familiar with FaceTime. This year, Apple announced that iOS 12 features Group FaceTime, which allows up to 32 people—iPhone, iPad and Mac users—in a single conversation. Family meetings don’t need to take place around the kitchen table anymore.
5. Start a Family YouTube Channel
Family YouTube channels are a creative way to share content and interact with an audience. Whether you’re fun and adventurous like That YouTub3 Family or want to vlog your vacations like Wolters World, each family member can contribute in their own way. YouTube can be easily accessed using your Contour voice remote, making watching and sharing videos with your family easier than ever.
6. Set a Streaming Date
Does your college kid love video games? Chances are, they are already on streaming platform Twitch. With over 15 million active daily users, Twitch features live streaming, gaming news, product announcements and more. Find out when your kid is playing Call of Duty or Fortnite and you can cheer them on in real time.
7. Family Game Night
Just because the kids aren’t home doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun family game night. Popular app HQ Trivia added a “Friends on HQ” update that will soon allow friends and family to connect inside the app. You’ll be able to keep track of how everyone is doing, as Tech Crunch explains, so the tradition of family game bragging rights lives on.
When you want a fast response, texting is the way to go. GroupMe allows for group messaging across phone types and — even better — it’s free for domestic and international texts. The app has features including custom emojis, direct messages and the option to share photos, videos and your location.
9. Special Delivery
Care packages are a staple in college. For parents looking to send something special and different, try online subscription services like Bokksu, which specializes in Japanese snacks, or Jeni’s Ice Cream that delivers pints of ice cream in colorful packaging direct to the dorm room.
Order yourself the same package you send and unbox the treats together!
10. Family Fitness Challenge
The family that gets fit together, stays together. Make a fitness goal that everyone in the family follows. You can all train together for an upcoming 5k run or make a pact to try new fitness classes each month. Need more ideas? Anytime Fitness has an interactive fitness guide to get everyone moving for 15 days.
Are your college kids eating through your phone’s data plan? Remind them that Cox High Speed Internet Preferred customers (and higher plans) have free, unlimited access to more than 500,000 WiFi Hotspots nationwide. It’s really easy for students to stay connected wherever they go, so they can post, surf, and stream as much as they want, whenever they want.