Hello, my name is Uriah and I am a plugged-in Dad.
I cuddle with my kids in bed while playing Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja on my iPhone. I video chat with my family during long days at work. When my kids are older I am certain that we will be texting and sending each other Facebook messages frequently.
The challenges for the modern Dad are many. Life is busy and you are working hard. Family is a priority, but it can be hard to give the best of your time and attention to the people you love.
For me, I struggle with working hard to support my family and consequently sacrificing quality time with them.
Many of the kids and teenagers in my practice tell me how much they value their relationship with their fathers, but just wish they could see them more. Dad is always working. It is a painful necessity.
As an involved, caring Dad I use technology as a means of connection. It gives me many opportunities to stay in touch with the important people in my life.
Of course, there are times when I stop to realize that I am getting too involved in Facebook, games or the Internet. Then I stop and redirect my attention. I go outside and play Frisbee with my kids or pull out an old-fashioned board game.
For the plugged in Dad, technology can be a wonderful tool. It can bring you closer to the ones you love and help you create shared memories.
So, here it is.
10 ways to use technology to be an increasingly awesome Dad
While Facebook is taking over the world, most teenagers still thrive on text messaging. As a Dad, of course you can use texting to locate your kids, lecture them on homework and responsibilities or hand down disciplinary actions.
However, you can also use texting to remind your teen how much you care, that you are thinking of them and share encouragement. Remember, if you share seven positive statements for every one negative statement, your relationship will be stronger.
With younger kids, you can send text messages to them through your spouse or partner. I remember how excited I was as a kid to get mail from my Grandma. Your kids will love that Dad is thinking of them enough to send a special message just for them.
You can use texting to maintain a positive connection and relationship with your children.
Facebook provides so many wonderful ways to connect, including posting photos, status updates, sending personal messages and chatting features.
I know there are many kids and teens who refuse to be friends with their parents on Facebook. Often times parents don’t know how to handle this new territory of social networking within the parent-child relationship. Check out my post on Facebook: Should I friend my teenage son?
If your kids are friends with you on Facebook, you can use it to stay connected without embarrassing them.
I think of an inspiring example of a father and daughter who I am friends with on Facebook. The daughter is college age and she has clearly had a close relationship with her Dad for a long time. To see them interact on Facebook, joking, expressing affection and just sharing life with each other is really quite touching.
Video chat is such an amazing way to use technology to stay in touch with loved ones. I remember when the idea of “video phones” was such a fantastic futuristic idea. Now it is a reality, even allowing people to video chat on their smartphones.
There are so many ways to use this technology for the plugged-in Dad.
- Military Dads using Skype to chat with their families
- Dads who travel often for business showing up on video for bedtime rituals
- Families with grandparents in other states/countries opening presents on video
- Dads with kids away at college reconnecting with video chat
- Working Dads using video to talk with their therapist on their lunch break
You can imagine that the possibilities are endless. Whatever your situation, it may be a good idea to use video chat to strengthen your family relationships.
Playing video games with your kids, online or off, can be an excellent way to spend quality time together and relate to them on their level. Gaming may just be the modern day equivalent of throwing a baseball in the yard.
I know that many parents are upset about the negative influence of video games, especially the violent games. This is a reality, but as a Dad, getting involved in your kid’s world can make a significant difference.
Connecting with your kids around their interests is always a beneficial way to strengthen your relationship. Whether it is playing baseball, Legos or video games.
Social gaming is popular and fun. You can play Words With Friends (like Scrabble online) or Draw Something (like Pictionary) with all of your family members. You can play Wii Sports games that involve not only social connection, but physical movement as well. If your kids are away at college, you can play online games with them and even use voice chat while you play.
I often encourage parents to play video games with their kids. I know that for some parents it may be a challenge because they don’t enjoy it or just have little interest, but I believe your kids will recognize your willingness to do something just to be with them.
Give it a try!
Support communities & online resources
Using technology as a plugged-in Dad is not just about connecting with your kids and family members. It is also about taking advantage of resources that will improve your parenting skills and level of engagement.
There are many online support communities for Moms, but there are also communities to benefit Dads. They are just a bit harder to find.
Reaching out to connect with other Dads can give you a sense of shared experience, motivate you with new ideas and give you a place to unload some frustration around the challenges you face.
Sharing photos online is one of my favorite ways to feel close to my loved ones.
I love checking Facebook in the middle of the day and seeing pictures of my kids at their ballet class. The last time I was traveling to a therapy conference, I texted a picture of myself to my wife and she said that my kids were kissing the phone.
You can use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr or any number of other applications to share important photos. There are many ways to use photo sharing to create the equivalent of a digital scrapbook.
I read about a single Dad who created a Facebook profile for his son when he was born. Over the years he would upload photos to Facebook and tag his son in them. Friends and family would do the same. This created a digital scrapbook chronicling his growth and development, marking important milestones and creating a wonderful place for his son to revisit in the future.
You may not want to create a Facebook profile for your infant child, but it is an example of a creative way to use technology.
You may not always want to communicate with your family through social networks for the world to see. Email is not totally secure, but it is a more private way to send and receive messages.
Some people who project technology futures think that email will disappear in favor of other socially connected platforms. But for now, it is still an excellent way to keep in touch with your family. The majority of cell phones in use now are smartphones that have constant access to email. Love it or hate it, email is an integral part of our lives.
Personal email is the modern equivalent of the hand written letter. You do remember those right? Think about how you can use email to send thoughtful or encouraging messages to your kids and loved ones.
Technology can be quite helpful for divorced parents. Co-parenting, the job of effectively parenting while separated or divorced, can be a significant challenge. Sometimes it is difficult or impossible for parents to communicate without fighting.
Texting and email can be helpful in communicating and keeping records of conversations. This could also involve using online calendars, such as Google Calendar, to keep the kid’s schedules synchronized.
Co-parenting successfully is a difficult job, but technology can make things run a bit smoother. Anything, that can make life easier for kids with divorced parents is beneficial.
Using tech to plan fun family events
There is life outside of work.
The plugged-in Dad often uses the Internet to score deals on event tickets, stay on the lookout for fun family activities and plan adventures.
You can buy a Groupon (online coupon service) for a family visit to the local zoo. Then email your family members, “We are going to the Zoo on Saturday!”
You can do some online research to find the perfect camping spot for that next outdoor adventure.
You can use Amazon.com to track down the ideal gift for your daughter’s upcoming birthday.
There are so many possibilities and fun ways to use technology to improve the fun factor in your family. The only limitation is your imagination and your family budget!
Listening to parenting podcasts
If you want to work on being a more awesome Dad, you can use the amazing resources on the Internet to your advantage.
Research shows that it is not important what parenting book you read or what parenting resources you learn from. The key factor is that you are the kind of parent that would take action to get new information and work on your parenting skills. That is the biggest predictor of parenting success.
You can listen to parenting podcasts while you commute to work, jog in the morning or work at your desk during the day.
Check iTunes or just search on Google for “Dad podcasts.”
I hope this post has given you some ideas about how to use technology to become an increasingly awesome, plugged-in Dad. Technology and the internet is here to stay. It does not have to isolate us, but rather it can support strong family connections.
Plus, Dads get to buy more toys and that is always a good thing. 🙂