5 Fun Ways to Keep Family Connections Strong (and Secure) This Holiday 

By on Nov 19, 2020

5 Fun Ways to Keep Family Connections Strong (and Secure) This Holiday

The reality is beginning to hit: The holiday season will look and feel different this year. Traditional family gatherings, complete with mile-long dinner tables and flag football games, are now considered COVID “super spreader” events, putting a dent in plans for large gatherings.

Still, there’s a bright side. We may be dealing with a pandemic, but we also happen to live in time of amazing technology and ingenuity. That means when the face-to-face connection isn’t possible, we can connect with a click or two.

Physical and Digital Safety

According to the Center for Disease Control, it’s important to keep basic safety protocols such as mask-wearing, disinfecting, and social distancing in place. In addition, they recommend limiting the number of guests, celebrating outdoors if possible, and limiting the number of people in food prep areas. One of the most important things you can do, says the CDC, is to “have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.”

A part of those conversations can also include ways to digitally connect with elderly or at risk loved ones who can’t gather and how to do it safely and securely. Here are a few ideas to get you rolling.

5 Creative (and Safe) Ways to Stay Connected

One big tip in organizing a successful, digitally connected holiday is to prep your technology logistics before your gathering. Ensure everyone invited to the call has downloaded the right app, adjusted privacy settings, and understands app and safety basics. For family members who may be uncomfortable connecting digitally, consider calling a few days ahead of time, previewing the app, and answering any questions. Prepping your tech will maximize your time together and ensure everyone feels confident.

1. Cook together. Use video apps such as FaceTime or Zoom to share recipes and even have grandma teach the kids to cook her famous corn casserole. Since everyone is together, you may even want to crowdsource favorite family recipes in a google doc and make a family cookbook.
Safe Family Tip: Your FaceTime app is always ideal because it’s encrypted and still private. When using video apps such as Zoom, make sure your account and meeting settings are personal.

2. Share a virtual mealtime. You might be surprised at how much fun sharing a mealtime virtually can be (we’ve tried it!) It’s easy: Set up your phone or computer on a stationary tripod or shelf that frames your dinner table. Agree on a time with family members. Dial them up on your phone or in your app. Toast the holiday in real-time.

Safe Family Tip: Be aware that with the increase in people going online to connect with family, shop, and work, hackers are also working overtime to get into Zoom (and other apps) conversations and figure out ways to plant malware. With increased digital activity, think about a comprehensive security solution, which can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats.

3. Enjoy movie time together. Using apps like Hulu Watch Party, Watch2gether, Amazon Watch, Netflix Party, and Houseparty makes it easy to watch a movie together from multiple locations. For kids, there’s Disney Plus Party for kid-friendly group viewing. Some of the apps require screen sharing, others separate logins, while others are simply one account holder sharing a link. The Verge offers this step-by-step on how to for several of these apps.

Safe Family Tip: Make sure the movie site or app you are using is legal and safe. Cybercriminals are hot on the trail of movie fans and have created movie apps designed to download malware onto computers. Avoid clicking on pop-up ads or random links while looking for movies or apps. Add an extra layer of protection using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your online activity, keep your identity secure, and secure downloads.

4. Multiplayer Game Apps. Don’t worry. Family game night lives on! Even if you are separated by miles, you can play virtual family games like Charades, Uno, Pictionary, Trivia, and many video games.

Safe Family Tip: Be sure the app you are downloading is legitimate. Read reviews and make sure there aren’t any virus or malware issues before downloading. Once downloaded, maximize your safety settings on the app, use strong passwords, and only connect with known players.

5. Virtual Karaoke. Gather on apps like Smule to enjoy some family karaoke together.

Safe Family Tip: Any group app can be a danger zone for cyberbullying or connection from strangers. Be sure that family members are aware of the dangers of allowing younger users to keep these apps on their phones following the holidays. Parental Control Software is an easy way to make sure your kids engage with safe content online.

Thanks to technology, it’s possible to shrink just about any distance. Will it take effort? Sure. Some learning? Yup. But hopefully, even though your home may feel a little more empty this year, your heart will be full.

About the Author

Toni Birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist for McAfee. She is an author, speaker, and cyber savvy mom of two teenagers (much to their dismay). As a family safety evangelist for McAfee, she focuses on online safety and often speaks to educators, parents, and teens about dodging the dangers online. She is the co-owner of ...

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