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How One Family Found a Fun Way to Use Technology to Bond

As part of the first wave of parents raising children in the digital age, I often feel I’m in a line of the blind leading the blind. We’re guessing. We’re occasionally desperate.

My husband and I went so far as to take our five kids to live on a sailboat for a year so we could connect and create memories before they grew up and moved out. While a year at sea is more doable than most people think, you don’t have to go to those extremes to bond with each other.

How to Stay Connected in the Digital Age

Upon returning to the land of wifi, we found ourselves digitally drifting apart again even in our 900 square foot apartment. My husband came up with a solution for this common problem. Now, every Sunday evening my family gathers for a ritual that is more Roku than Rockwell. We call it: Week in Pictures.

Starting with our youngest and working our way up, each family member syncs their iPod or iPhone to our Apple TV and shares their photos, videos, and snaps from the week.

It’s that simple.

Our kids were skeptical at first. We didn’t know if it would stick, but we’ve been holding Week in Pictures for over three years now. It doesn’t require elaborate preparation. It’s a quick, “Hey kids, grab your phones. Time for Week in Pictures.”  If the wifi is weak, we switch off until it’s our turn to share. Our only rule is that we all stay to see each other’s photos.

You wouldn’t think a few minutes once a week can make a difference, but it’s had a huge impact in our home. In those few minutes, one gets a glimpse into everyone’s life. Try it once. You may be surprised what you learn about each other. You may have the satisfaction of knowing you really do have a pulse on your child’s interests or you may have the pleasure of learning more about them.

So often, when months blur together, Week in Pictures reveals some measure of what has made each week unique.

Knowing we’ll have an opportunity to share insights, discoveries, and silly faces with each other makes us more aware of life in real time.

It’s like sipping a cozy cup of Our Town. I am regularly amazed at how much life is compressed into seven days — milestones, epiphanies, emotions and experiences — even when we’re just having a regular week.

When we have company on Sunday evenings, we invite them to join us for Week in Pictures. When we are visiting others, we ask if our hosts would like to have a Week in Pictures. Everyone we’ve shared it with has loved the experience.

Now that two of our daughters are away at college, we do what most parents do: we call, email, and follow each other on Instagram. We have a family group text for sharing ongoing conversations. And we also use the group text to console, congratulate, and keep our inside jokes alive.

But when our daughters come home between semesters, they want to share their pictures from the weeks we’ve missed. So we block out time over several days to make sure they get to show us everything they want us to know about their lives.

A lot of parents are looking for the key to that secret garden where they can glimpse into their children’s lives. I think we’ve found it. If you’re looking for a way to connect with your kids, the key may already be in your hand.

Emily Orton blogs with her husband, Erik, at They are the co-authors of Seven at Sea: Why a New York City Family Cast Off Convention for a Life-Changing Year on a Sailboat, coming in March 2019.

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