10 Insights to Bridge the Tech Generation Gap

10 Insights to Bridge the Tech Generation Gap

Your toddler tries to turn magazine pages by swiping his finger along the bottom of the page, and yet your mom has yet to locate the power button on the new iPad you just bought her. This is seemingly the greatest generation gap in history, and here you are sandwiched in the middle trying to hold the ends together. Although it is tempting to throw up your hands before even trying to bridge this gap, I want to share some insights I learned from three people entrenched in the world of family and technology who I met at the FamilyTech Summit as part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, who helped me to see that it’s much less about the technical know-how, and much more about our approach and mindset. What I learned is that we must first:

  1. Banish ageism. It is real, but it can be overcome. Because:
  2. Just because it’s not native doesn’t mean it can’t be learned. These two insights came from Brenda Rusnak, producer of Cyber Seniors, a documentary about a few teenagers who sought out to teach some local seniors to use the internet. It is both hilarious and heartwarming, and watching the teens try to explain things like email and Facebook to the octogenarians also shows how important it is to:
  3. Start at the beginning, don’t take what you know for granted. Brenda said some of the teens used the metaphor of the internet as a library and webpages as books. Before you show Nana how to write on someone’s Timeline, explain how Facebook is a virtual rolodex for connecting with family and friends. Finally, from the movie comes the strong message that:
  4. This is our social responsibility. Showing someone who wasn’t born into the digital age how to use a smartphone or the internet isn’t just cute, it’s necessary. Retired and elderly life is often physically and socially isolating as it is – not being able to connect will only isolate them further. I’m not saying quit your day job and start touring retirement homes performing tutorials, but the next time your parent or older friend asks what it is you’re tapping at, offer to show them (slowly!) how it works. And if you don’t think your parent will be interested when you ask them to learn how to operate a gadget or use a website, then take Dan Tynan’s advice, the Modern Family columnist for Yahoo Tech:
  5. Get your kids to teach your parents. Indeed if you ask them, who knows if they’ll do it. But if their grandbaby says they can’t wait to start sending them pictures every day, then they’ll be tapping and swiping before you know it. Dan added that this will also make it possible for your parents to:
  6. Connect with their kids and grandkids unintrusively. Grandparents often feel they are going at a slower pace than the younger generations, and don’t want to bother them during their busy schedules. But if they are in a WhatsApp group or a Facebook friend, then they can receive updates regularly and feel in-the-loop without bothering anyone. An added benefit that Dan shared was that:
  7. Familiarity now could lead to living independently longer later. A seemingly bold claim, but there are already many devices and apps making it possible to live independently longer. The more an aging parent gets used to keeping in contact and interacting with technology now, the longer independent living will be possible in the future – especially in combination with sensors and tracking technology. Now before you get too overwhelmed, take Robin Raskin’s advice, the founder of Living in Digital Times:
  8. Start with a single relevant task to do online. Think about the person who is getting online for the first time and what they love to do. Is it books? Listen to an audio book. Teach them to do something they already do regularly-online, let them master that and only then move on. Keep in mind that Robin recalls when it was a $5,000 buy-in to engage with technology, but that’s no longer the case:
  9. A small investment can go a long way. Even starting to text hi and I love you with grandkids can be downright life changing. And even better than that:
  10. Technology can help overcome certain challenges that come with age. Robin shared the story of a little boy who told her that he loved talking to his grandpa online because he didn’t have to yell (he could type!).

Just as Cyber Seniors Director, Saffron Cassaday, so eloquently puts it in the film – once we close this gap we can again have three generations in the same house, except that this time it will be a virtual house.

Welcome to the Future: Family Location Sharing and Much More

Welcome to the Future: Family Location Sharing and Much More

Remember back in the Stone Ages, when your kid would go off to the mall and you would shove a calling card in their hand and make them promise to call you when they arrived and then again when they were leaving? Kids of the future, and even young kids today it seems, will have no such experience – they won’t even have to call or text their parents to say where they are and when they’ll get home. You will know about your kids’ whereabouts thanks to a myriad of technological advances, the question is what we will all sacrifice to make that possible and if we’ll decide it’s worth it.

We had the chance to sit down with the Chief Business Officer of Life360 – a mobile app for family location sharing in real time, at all times. Far from a glimpse into the faraway future, Life360 is already connecting over 50 million families, including 60,000 who pay $5 a month for extra features like getting a tow when stuck with your car (even if you don’t know where you are, they do!) or automatically sending your kid’s health info to whoever needs it in case of an emergency.

You can listen to my full conversation with Itamar here, or read on for the most interesting parts!

The Family Hub of the Future?

Itamar Novick of Life360, told us that the vision of Life360 is to be the family hub, the family network in which families share locations, messages, and a host of other family-related info. How does it work? Each person in your family has the app on their smartphone and is a part of your closed family circle. When they choose, each family member can share their location with the rest of their family (all the time, for example). Novick explained that in an effort to make family life more frictionless, they wanted to eliminate the most frequent text or call within the family which is: where are you? or, when will you be home? With Life360 that text is irrelevant, each family member already knows where you are and when you’ll be home right in the app on a private map. 

But what about privacy?

We asked if some of their users were hesitant to embrace something that essentially sacrifices their privacy? He noted the fact that anyone can turn on and off their location sharing at any time. But what they were surprised to find was that people were turning off their location sharing less often than they thought they would, apparently comforted by the knowledge that they could shut it off if they wanted to, but in reality they don’t use the off switch very much.  What about the teens who are in that stage of finding their individual selves and might be resistant to what could feel like being tracked? Novick said that just like when Mark Zuckerberg said in 2008 that privacy on the internet is dead, for young kids today geo-privacy is dying. And that while he says Life360 is not for every family, some teens find that it actually gets their parents off their back, and that the benefits of sharing their location with their parents outweigh their privacy concerns. 

Life360 is just the beginning

Where it starts to feel a little like the Jetsons and that we’ve been propelled into a future we’re not sure how we feel about yet, is in the fact that Life360 is on the forefront of smart homes, wearable devices and all types of automation and connected life. Can you imagine a world where as soon as everyone leaves home for the day, the lights will go off, thermostat will turn down and security system be armed? You will even be able to give Grandma temporary access to your home when she comes for the weekend since she’s already in your family circle. 

Where do you stand?

At this point maybe you’re wondering if all this technology is too much? You’re probably weighing the pros and cons of having access to this kind of family info and connection instantly at all times. Well, with Life360 and numerous other kinds of hard and software already on the market and in development, now is a good time to think with yourself and talk with your own family about your thoughts on this level and type of connection. When you sit down for dinner with your kids or spouse ask them what they think, what the benefits and concerns would be and be ready for what technology is bringing to your family sometime very soon.

A New Year’s Resolution for the Whole Family

A New Year’s Resolution for the Whole Family

Well, tomorrow is a new year and inevitably there are some sparks of resolutions darting around the back of your mind as you try to figure out which ones to really commit yourself to doing and how to make them happen.  Some resolutions are the kind that you’ve resolved to do already once or a number of times in the past, but they’re hard work and they require continued attention and dedication and you’re not sure you’ll make it this time around. Some are smaller and you’ve been working toward them already and feel confident that you’ll achieve them this year but perhaps they’re also not particularly significant to your life. The art of a good New Year’s Resolution is to resolve to do something that is both significant to your life but also truly doable if you set your mind to it and equip yourself with the right tools.

Well, we’ve got one for you that will be both significant and achievable. It’s not a trick or too good to be true, it’s just that a new and free technology we’ve developed makes it possible. If you care greatly about your family and keeping them connected, then surely you know that remembering birthdays and marking them in some way is a uniquely powerful way to connect throughout the year in a meaningful way with your loved ones. Surely you also know that feeling that accompanies the realization that you forgot your loved one’s birthday and the missed opportunity to make them feel special.

Well, what if you were to resolve that 2015 would be the year of no forgotten birthdays in your family? Not a single one. Including your extended family. Imagine a whole calendar year when each time a family member’s birthday came up on the calendar you received a friendly reminder that allowed you to send the person a message right away or even send flowers or a gift? AND, not only would you receive the reminder, but every person in the family would receive the reminder and be able to send a message or gift to the birthday person. This would keep the family better connected than ever, wouldn’t you think? Well, EverMinder makes all of that possible, and for free.

It’s as if you’re making a resolution for the whole family, and keeping it for them! Once one family member (let’s say you) signs up for EverMinder and enters the family info – bam! – everyone gets reminders about every family birthday, anniversary and any other special date you choose.

If you’re not already rushing to sign up for EverMinder before the clock strikes 12, then let me remind you that this successful resolution will last long after 2015, just a single sign up lasts forever. And did I mention that each family member can customize their own reminder preferences and gift choices for when their own special days comes along? So go ahead, make it happen! Your family will be thanking you for years to come. Happy New Year!

Christmas Babies, We Got Your Back: 10 ways to make a Christmas birthday extra special

Christmas Babies, We Got Your Back: 10 ways to make a Christmas birthday extra special

You undoubtedly know what’s coming up in just 14 days from today. That’s right, it’s the most celebrated holiday in the world, it’s almost Christmas. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about what ELSE is happening in 14 days from today… Okay, okay, I’ll just tell you. December 25th, like every other day in the year is the birthday of approximately 19 million people in the world! That’s right, let it sink in (and thank Matt Rosenberg at about.com for the estimate), around 19 million people have their birthday each day, including, of course, on Christmas. Although not everyone in the world celebrates Christmas, a Pew Research Center study from last year shows that even 81% of non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas. This means that many millions of people each year are faced with the challenge of a birthday on Christmas.

While some people have claimed that having a birthday on Christmas is fabulous, we wouldn’t blame you if you found it to be a bummer that your day, a unique yearly opportunity to celebrate you, got a tad bit overshadowed by Christmas.

So that’s why I’m here to say, Christmas babies (and those who love them) – we got your back.  Here are ten simple ways to make the Christmas birthday person’s day extra special despite the potential distraction of jingling bells and roasting chestnuts:

  1. In addition to a Christmas Tree, include a Birthday Bush. Put birthday presents separately under the bush. You can even wrap the birthday presents with their own special paper.
  2. Instead of the 12 Days of Christmas, do 12 Days of Birthday! Wrap 12 small presents each labeled with their day and allow them only open the first one. For the next 11 days while everyone in steeped in the holiday season they’ll remember the thought you gave to their special day.
  3. Collect some gifts or cards from friends or family who you won’t be spending the holiday with ahead of time. When you deliver them the birthday person will feel extra special about the thought that people put in even in the Christmas craziness before the holiday.
  4. Designate a specific part of the day (perhaps lunch on Christmas Day) during which you’ll celebrate only the birthday and forget about Christmas just for that time slot. You might even consider having totally untraditional food like Chinese take-out or pizza, to set it apart even with the grub. If you’re the theatrical type then designate a time of day when it stops being Christmas and starts being birthday and dramatically switch over to talking about and doing only birthday-related things.
  5. For kids: give the birthday girl or boy a special part of the Christmas gifting ceremony as part of their birthday present – maybe it’s delivering each gift to its recipient or devising a system to determine who gets the next gift. Maybe include a wand or badge.
  6. Here’s a radical one – consider throwing them a half birthday party on June 25th. Give out save-the-date cards at Christmas. This way they know you’ve acknowledged that their birthday isn’t getting all the attention it deserves but you’re guaranteeing a celebration down the line just when they weren’t expecting it. Or, throw them a surprise party no where near Christmas. This will be the most surprising of all!
  7. Write a Christmas song parody in honor of the birthday person and send it to guests ahead of time so you can perform it together (“jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock, our dear Elaine, we bet you thought we forgot…” etc.)
  8. If they are a big fan of a certain celebrity try Tweeting at that celebrity and getting them to send a special Christmas birthday tweet to your loved one.
  9. Give them a coupon for a proper birthday party redeemable anytime in the next six months. For extra cuteness create small print about the number of guests and options for food and venue.
  10. Check this list of 16 famous people who were also born on Christmas and choose one or a few to inspire a game or birthday card in the spirit of you’re-not-alone-this-awesome-person-is-also-a-Christmas-baby!

The main principles are simple – set the birthday apart, show them you thought of them, and make them feel special. These principles are central to any good birthday celebration, they’re just a little more important when the birthday has the possibility of getting overshadowed by another holiday or event that is on or near the date. This can be any holiday, not only Christmas, or even a one-time event like a family wedding or reunion. Turn the coincidence into an opportunity to make the person feel extra special, it’s often the thought that you put in that makes the most difference.

Please add your own ideas and experiences in the comments!

The Thanksgiving Family Birthday Showdown

The Thanksgiving Family Birthday Showdown

Ever wondered who in the family knows the most family birthdays? You might be tempted to assume that it’s the matriarch of the family who magically seems to remember every date in history, but you might be surprised – those teenagers are listening, and not just to their iPods.

For those looking to start their EverMinder Group sometime soon, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get a jump start! Or, it can be used for some good old fashioned intergenerational fun. But since you’ll have lots of family members in one place – it’s a great time to collect family birthdays.

All you need is a printer and some pens. Otherwise there is zero prep. Just print up four copies of this pdf in color or B&W: Family Birthday List (if you have a really big family then just print more copies of the second page).

Now, to how the Thanksgiving Family Birthday Showdown works:

Click here for game instructions!

Nothing Says I Miss You Like a Sign Message

Nothing Says I Miss You Like a Sign Message

Today, when so many families are spread out geographically, technology has provided many tools to ease the pain of being far away. And sometimes even small creative flares can make the most of the tools at our disposal.

And so, in today’s Connecting Families post: Sign Messages.

Never underestimate the power of the cuteness of your children/family combined with a customized message for the person you’re missing.

For the Sign Message you will need only four things and about ten minutes of your time (fifteen if you get really creative!):

  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Your adorable children
  • Your phone

Feel free to use creative license, but choosing a short message and then splitting up the words in the message and having different kids or family members hold them up is both quick and cute. You can even have each family member write their own word and decorate the page. Then everyone holds them up enthusiastically and snap the photo with your phone.  You can have them do different faces and even take a few to make a collage.  That’s it – send it off in whatever form the lucky recipient uses most regularly.

click here for a few alternate versions!