By Frannie Ucciferri, Common Sense Media
This year it's easier than ever for kids and families to follow along with the Winter Olympics, all without traveling to Pyeongchang. Fans can use apps like Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook to skate, ski, sled, and even sweep (you're welcome, curling buffs) alongside their favorite athletes. The Olympics are also a great way to talk to kids about sportsmanship, perseverance, and teamwork -- as well as social media benefits and boundaries. The Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, begin Feb. 9 with the Opening Ceremony and go until the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 25. There's a lot going on, so we've rounded up some of our favorite digital ways to experience the action and turn the Winter Games into a fun learning experience for the whole family.
The Official Olympics Hubs
A great place to start is with the official Olympics website and app. There you'll find a mountain of resources, including news, results, Olympic history, and descriptions of all the sports. That way you'll never be confused about the difference between figure skating and ice dancing again.
Meet the Mascots
Every Olympics, the host nation comes up with a cute animated character to represent the spirit and location of that year's games. This year, Korea introduced us to Soohorang and Bandabi, an adorable white tiger and Asiatic black bear.
Subscribe to the ShibSibs
Sibling ice-dancing duo Alex and Maia Shibutani are not only national champions, they're also active vloggers on YouTube. The "ShibSibs," as they're known online, give a playful, approachable look behind the scenes of what it's really like to be an Olympic athlete.
- See the ShibSibs on YouTube.
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View It in VR
For the first time ever, NBC Olympics is offering more than 50 hours of live Olympics coverage in virtual reality. Although you'll need a VR headset for the full experience, you can download the app for 360-degree videos on your smartphone or Google Cardboard capabilities.
- Check out the Olympics VR experience.
Up-to-the-Minute Snapchat Updates
NBC Olympics and BuzzFeed have teamed up to offer exclusive clips and coverage of athletes, events, and more as one of the "Publisher Stories" on the Snapchat Discover page. Snapchat will also be offering its usual user-submitted "Our Stories" feature for the Pyeongchang Games on the Discover page, which is made up of curated posts from Snapchatters who are attending the events live, as well as the athletes themselves.
- Visit Snapchat Discover (reach it by swiping left from the camera screen in the Snapchat app).
Follow the Fashion
If your kids are more into clothes than sports, there are still plenty of ways to engage with the Winter Games. From high-tech heating to sequined costumes to wild curling pants, there's plenty to talk about -- and maybe inspire young designers to get creative.
- Learn about Team USA's uniforms and figure skater costume design.
- Follow the Norwegian Olympic Curling Team's pants on Facebook.
- Design your own wintry looks with Style Studio: Fashion Designer.
Listen and Learn
If you love podcasts, we've found some great options that will give you answers to questions you didn't even know you had about the Olympics, such as, "When did snowboarding become a sport?" or "Who are the athletes to watch?" or "What do former figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir talk about when they're not commentating?" (Learn how to get into podcasts.)
- Listen to The Podium, NBC's official Olympics podcast, and Tara and Johnny, for sports and pop culture commentary.
Interact with the Athletes
Many of the athletes competing in the games are active on social media. Following your favorite athletes can be a fun way to get to know them. Make sure to establish rules around social media use. Some of our faves:
- Adam Rippon, figure skater -- Twitter: @Adaripp, Instagram: @adaripp
- Alex Shibutani, figure skater -- Twitter: @AlexShibutani, Instagram: @alexshibutani
- Aja Evans, bobsledder -- Twitter: @AjaLEvans, Instagram: @ajalevans
- Ashley Wagner, figure skater -- Twitter: @AshWagner2010, Instagram: @ashwagner2010
- Chloe Kim, snowboarder -- Twitter: @chloekimsnow, Instagram: @chloekimsnow
- Hilary Knight, hockey player -https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/4-lessons-kids-can-learn-from-watching-sports- Twitter: @HilaryKnight, Instagram: @hilaryknight
- Maame Binny, speed skater -- Twitter: @BineyMaame, Instagram: @biney.biney
- Maia Shibutani, figure skater -- Twitter: @MaiaShibutani, Instagram: @maiashibutani
- Nathan Chen, figure skater -- Twitter: @nathanwchen, Instagram: @nathanwchen
- Shaun White, snowboarder -- Twitter: @shaunwhite, Instagram: @shaunwhite