The Family Chat

Lynn JataniaOur youngest is about to turn 14, and that means it’s time for the last member of our family to get her own cell phone.

We decided back when our oldest was heading off to high school that age 14, Grade 9, is cell phone time for our family. We’ve been happy with that decision – it seemed like the right time in terms of maturity, and also it became clear that having a phone to use in class at high school was beneficial and even expected.

At the same time, our oldest is about to head off to university, and likely won’t be living with us next year. With restrictions finally lifting and our at-home kids able to come-and-go with a little more freedom, phones are about to become the most important way for us all to keep in touch and stay close. 

As a result, we decided to set up a family chat room where we can text each other as a group – and then, through constant reminders and cajoling, taught our kids to actually check the chat on occasion! (At least they’re more willing to keep tabs on the family chat than they are willing to check their  --shudder -- email.)

The family chat gets used for:

  • Sharing funny memes that rapidly become family in-jokes
  • Sharing important family news, like who is getting immunized when, and who needs to get up early for the dentist tomorrow
  • Putting out an all-call for whoever is at home to double check the status of certain food items while someone is out grocery shopping
  • Inviting feedback on things like family vacation plans and holiday activities
  • Linking to news about new TV shows, movies, or music coming out that we all might like to watch together

The content of the chat is probably not all that important. It’s the idea of the chat that makes me happy – that no matter where we all are, at any given time, there’s a way for us all to get on the same page at the same time. It’s yet another marvel to me of the modern world; imagine going away to school in a far-flung city back in the 18th century, and maybe, possibly, getting a letter once or twice a year from family back home with a few key updates. Now we can all message each other instantly, any time something cute or funny happens – we don’t have to wait for the big things to get in touch.

It’s one more positive thing that I’m grateful for in today’s tech-heavy world. We may be apart, but we can still find each other in the Family Chat.

Do you have a family chat room? Do you find it helps you stay connected?

Related MediaSmarts resources:

Your Connected Life: A Teen’s Guide to Life Online
On The Loose: A Guide to Life Online For Post-Secondary Students
Family Guidelines for New Tech Devices 
The Parent Network: Social Media and Your Kids Workshop