There’s An App For That

— Written By and last updated by Jessie Jones
en Español

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A colleague of mine recently wrote an article about putting away technology for the sake of family time during the holidays. I must admit, if you read our columns with any regularity, you have probably seen a couple of those from me as well. Her suggestions were quite creative, but I started thinking, why does it have to be either/or? Can’t we use our technology, not to shut ourselves off from others, but to include each other?

How could we do that and include family no matter age or technology skill? It could be something as simple as letting a child call Santa. Like any good 4-H Agent, Santa’s phone number is programmed into my phone, so we can talk anytime during the year. Imagine a child’s or grandchild’s face light up when you voice command your phone to call Santa or just put him on the speaker phone? That’s joy for the whole family.

For those who believe, no matter the age, there are a whole bunch of Santa apps out there. Mostly, I found a lot of Santa Tracker apps that you can download on your smart phone to help keep track of Santa’s path on Christmas Eve, a few naughty and nice meters, and even an app that lets you text directly with the jolly old man (FYI – he is a rather slow texter, but he is trying). If seeing is believing, you can even video chat with the big man himself. Pretty cool, huh?

For those who might be looking for something more, what about creating a holiday scavenger hunt? Break the group into teams and then give them a clue. When the team locates the Christmas item, they have to text a photo back to get the next clue. You can do this in the house, outside, or riding around town; make it as big or small as you’d like. That can lead to all sorts of face-to-face and technology fun that folks will talk about for years to come.

During the holidays, there is always someone you wish could have been at the table with you. Don’t forget the importance of a family video chat. Maybe you have sent gifts to the children or grandchildren and want to see their face when they open them Christmas morning. It’s not the same as being in the room, but a video call will let you take part and help create memories even when you’re apart.

Perhaps we should handle our technology during the holidays like nutritionists suggest we handle our food, with moderation. If you are using it, make sure it is used to enhance the holiday experience, not block everyone out. Oh, and if you need to make that last-minute call to Santa, he gave me permission to share his home number: (951) 262-3062. Please remember it’s his busy season, so you may need to leave a message for the big guy. Merry memory making this holiday season!

For more information, please contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.