Turning Screen Time Into Family Time

“We gaaaaather to-ge-ther to staaaare at our touchscreens…”

From illustrator Chris Ware’s now-prescient “Unmasked” New Yorker cover, to the family room full of downturned faces,  your holiday gathering of friends, family and other loved ones may be looking like a long weekend of parallel solitude once the roast beast is consumed and the football drags into the loooong sloooow third quarter.

But short of exerting overbearing parental control you do have some options.  The fact is, that touchscreen isn’t evil and alienating in and of itself.  You’re just not using it to its full family-togetherness potential.

You can look for some family game apps of course.

But here are some ideas on how to grow togetherness and keep the conversation from veering into “kids these days and their danged cell phones with the bookface and the chirping and I don’t know what all.”

Go for a walk.

You need the time outside and your body is begging for some relief from the 3000 calories worth of holiday cheer you just packed on. If you’re interested in adding a little treasure hunting fun to the post-prandial ramble, download Ingress from the App Store or Google Play.  The augmented reality game combines social media, Google Maps and a backstory no less complicated than that of “Lost” to add some excitement to walking down the same old streets as you work to find and hack Portals for your team. NO doubt that Google is harvesting all the data for some future use, but it’s nerdy fun. Plus, they’ll never know they’re exercising at the same time.

Wash the dishes.

Seriously.  The chances are better than even that the person/people who prepared your meal are the ones washing up afterwards. Now, is this gratitude? Grab the cool cousins, pour a fresh glass of whatever needs freshening, and head to the kitchen to undo what was done. Tunes help immensely here.  Prove that you’re the coolest of the cool cousins by getting a start on Christmas cheer with Mike’s Awful or Awesome Christmas mixes on Spotify. Seriously, if Binky Griptite’s “Stone Soul Christmas” and drying the good china doesn’t smash through your self-induced food coma, you’re probably dead.

Play a card game.

Yeah, there will be groans from every teenager on the room.  But the little kids, parents, grandparents, aunties and whomever else will love it. And exactly one round into Apples to Apples, Spades or whatever card game most people know, everyone in the game will be engaged, active and … miracle of miracles … talking with each other.  It’s amazing to watch it happen. If you’re so inclined (and the fam rolls this way,) Cards Against Humanity, is always in horrible and perfect taste.  No apps yet, though there are those of use who have played Pretend You’re Xyzzy on a touchscreen and found the experience only slightly less hilariously offensive than the card game itself.

So that’s what we have to offer this annual feasting season.  What are your best ideas for getting more face time and less screen time with the family?  The comments are open.

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