2020 has been extremely different from past years. Terms like “social distancing” and “reduced gathering” have impacted the way we think of the holidays. Coronavirus is a serious health concern. Rather than complain about not being as free to travel and see our families, we should make keeping them safe our main concern. We can do that by learning how to use technology to stay in touch with family over Christmas.

“The ability to have continuous contact throughout the day with other family members increases the feeling of closeness and happiness.”

Ericsson Consumer Lab study from 2015

The holiday season has not been the same without family. Whether it is a pandemic holiday or just any regular holiday where you cannot meet your family, technology can definitely solve that problem. Here are a couple devices and apps that can keep your family close without putting them at risk.

Amazon Echo

This slim cylinder is always waiting to hear its wake word. This device is usually used to listen to music, set timers and even tell you the weather outside. However, with an Amazon Echo, it is possible to make hands-free phone calls through an inter-com like system called “Drop In.” This calls other Echo systems directly even in another household.

Better Than a Phone Call

The “Drop In” functions like an intercom, where the person on the other line can talk without even having to accept the call. The call happens automatically as long as the option has been activated on both devices. This is completely hands-free and allows either person to walk around freely. You can even do a group call in this mode.

Amazon Echo allows you to feel like you and your family are in the same room all day without picking up a phone call.

Amazon Echo Show

Amazon Echo Show is just like the Echo except for the screen. It provides a simple way to have face to face interaction with family. Echo parties can be had with other devices, such as with cellphones that have the Alexa app installed.

“Ideally we are having live face-to-face interactions with each other, but given that’s not possible, the closer we can get to live interaction, the better.” 

Jonathan Kanter, director of the Center for the Science of Social Connection at University of Washington

Facebook Portal

Portals come in many different sizes. Facebook Portal works the same as the Amazon echo, except it works completely through Facebook. The portal relies on your friends list and Facebook Messenger.


The following apps can be easier to access and cost less than the previous options. They can easily be downloaded on iOS and Android play store.


Zoom is an app that was originally used for business conferences. These meetings have became know as the superior and more popular way to stay connected with teachers, friends, and now family.

How Zoom Works

Zoom works from the app installed on your phone or computer. This app is free to download. It allows a video call that shows visual and audio to the others in the meeting. Zoom even has a free account option that gives you a 40 minute limit. It works on both iPhone and Android devices, which makes it available to more family members than FaceTime allows.

Try setting up a zoom meeting with your family members this Christmas. An early morning meeting to see others reactions to opening gifts will help ease the tension of not being there. It’s especially great for young kids, whose reactions to gifts are what we look forward to the most.

Netflix Party

This Chrome extension lets you watch movies or tv shows with friends and family, while chatting together at the same time. Netflix Party includes a text chat on the side of the screen. In all honesty, this is a better option than watching anything alone. Login to your separate accounts and pick a movie is all there is to it.

Does it really feel like your watching TV together?

Netflix Party will sync the playback on all accounts invited to the party. Meaning that all will be watching the same thing all at the same time on all the individual accounts. There is no set amount of people who you can invite to a Netflix Party.

Your family all watching Christmas movies in a Netflix Party will have you feeling closer to them by the minute. You’ll enjoy spending time in your pajamas and it will feel like a big slumber party. This might even start a new tradition in your family.


Collaborative Spotify playlists connect you with your family by simply sharing music together. Spotify allows you to create a playlist together. The best part is Spotify doesn’t require you to have a premium account to be able to do this.

Will sharing music bring back the Christmas spirit?

Sharing a playlist with your family where everyone is listening to your favorite Christmas songs is an enjoyable experience. Even though you may not be together physically, the act of sharing music and celebrating simultaneously will have you in high spirits and thinking of your family throughout the holiday.


Houseparty is like a social media app that involves video chatting. The app tells you when your friends are online and if they are available to group chat. You can talk on this app for over 60 minutes.

What’s different about Houseparty?

The Houseparty app has games for visitors to play. How fun would it be to have a video chatting session while playing games? This app has 7 games that you and your family can play. From Heads Up to Trivia, it’s all around fun.

If you’re a board game family, this is the app for you. It allows games and a video chat screen, so you never feel alone. This is a unique app that could become a keeper whether for Christmas or a quick chat with friends you miss.

Christmas is meant to be spent with family. Staying connected is important especially when you can’t physically be there, so be sure to try these options out this Holiday season!

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