Family and technology are not normally two words you would string together, but the one is enabling the other to stay close. The technology of today makes it easier than ever for family and friends to stay in contact, despite distances between them.
Years ago you would only hear from distant family on the phone, during holidays, or keep up with the latest events, via the mail. Now, with the proliferation of the Internet and smartphones, you no longer have to wait for the baby announcement to come through the mail, and you don’t have to worry about expensive phone bills when you want to talk to your grandchildren. Thanks to modern technology, keeping in touch with loved ones is simple and cheap.
Here is a list of how family and technology will cross paths every day.
The oldest form of Internet communication has changed very little since its origins. It used to be that you’d have to send a written letter through the postal system and the recipient would get it days or weeks later, frequently making it old news by the time they read it. Through email you can send and receive letters, notes and pictures with very little delay and the recipient can respond. It is very simple to get a free email account, and most of them are very user friendly. Some of the most popular free email hosts are Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. The main downfall to email is the spam, unwanted email from various companies and people. Sometimes spam can be more than a nuisance and can contain harmful programs. So to play it safe, never open email from someone you don’t know and NEVER click on any attachment you can’t identify.
Instant messengers, such as MSN messenger and Yahoo Chat, have been around for years and offer an experience similar to talking on the phone; except you type the messages instead of speaking. These are instant relay chats, which means that there is only a few seconds of delay between you and the recipient. The added benefit is that you can also share documents and photos over the chat system. However the participants have to be on at the same time, so coordination when everyone is on can be difficult.
Skype is a live video feed that runs over the Internet. Participants require a microphone, speakers and a web camera. Many web cameras have built-in microphones, which just leaves the requirement of speakers or headphones, so you can hear the other party. Most laptops and tablets come with integrated web cameras and speakers so they are already set for live chat without additional hardware. Skype is a free program which allows you to call another Skype user for free, the program has also recently integrated the Microsoft Live users into their system. Calling Skype account to Skype account is free, but calling a land line does cost a small amount, and as with instant messenger programs it would take some coordination to make sure that you are all available at the same time.
Social media is one of the best methods to keep the family and friends up to date with the latest news. Some of the more popular forms of social media are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Most social media, such as Facebook, allow users to share videos, photos and documents. Other social media, such as Twitter and Pinterest, specialize in short texts or photos. The best ones let you adjust the privacy settings, allowing you to specify which people see your postings. The biggest advantage of social media is that it can be done in real time or as posted messages allowing family members to respond later, when they are online. This is best for families that work conflicting hours or are living in different time zones. This is also a very simple method for those with limited technical ability.
The more advanced mobile phones, such as smartphones, are making it even easier for people to follow and respond to social media. This allows you time away from the computer, yet still able to keep the family together.
Blog posts are an interesting way to keep the family up to date with family news. For those that don’t know: Blogs are websites where you place news items or articles for people to read. One of the first was LiveJournal, but now there are many others including Blogger and WordPress.
Family members can post newsworthy items on the blog with videos and photos easily embedded in the posts. The blog can be kept private, and blog owner grant access to those they wish to view it; those viewers are known as members. Blogs can be set so that any member can be allowed to post items on the board, it can also be set to allow members to leave comments on each post.
If you chose to leave the blog as viewable by the public, keep personal information to a minimum. Those who know you will already know the names of your children, their schools and the city you live in. Use nicknames or abbreviations for family members and friends to make it more difficult for potential stalkers and identity thieves to get your information.
Once the world was an insurmountable concept and someone in a different country was almost inaccessible, but technology has shrunk the world bringing people closer together. Bringing your family and technology together will make it seem like the other side of the world is just next door.