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The internet offers experiences for our children that were beyond our own childhood dreams - here's how to use the internet to keep up with distant friends and family, or maybe Dad when he's away on business!
The internet is primarily a communication medium. When we grew up, we could keep in touch with distant relatives and grandparents by telephone or post, but now we can do so much more!
Email's not that great for preschoolers because it's text based, but you can use it to send digital photos to your friends and relatives. Show how your little ones are growing and share the adventures they get up to. Better than email for photos, why not create online albums and share photos and videos with friends and family? This can be done with many social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, blogging sites such as Blogger or Blogspot, or dedicated photo sharing services such as Flickr, Photobucket or Snapfish.
More interactive than email is the ability to have live conversations using messaging systems such as Windows Live Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger or Yahoo Messenger. All are free to download and use, just follow their simple instructions to signup, download and start using!
Instant messaging still doesn't give your babies much option! How about messaging with voice so that your kids can interact directly with distant grandparents every day? Skype is the best known voice service over the internet, but there are other options such as Google Talk or any of the Instant Messanging services mentioned above. These can be used to hold free voice conversations between computers, all you need is a microphone attached to your computer.
Video phone calls offer the best option for really young babies and toddlers who can't talk - your relatives can chat with you whilst they admire even your youngest baby! Video calls requires a webcam attached to your computer (and a mic if not built in!), but these are inexpensive and easy to install - most laptops now come with built in cameras that are perfectly good for making video calls. There are plenty of free video services such as Skype, Google Talk, iVideoChat or Windows Live Messenger.
If Granny prefers old fashioned post, why not send a real postcard? Upload a digital photo to Hazelmail or, from an iPhone, Postino; type a message, and a real postcard will arrive on Granny's doorstep in just a couple of days.
Although the idea of using the internet to keep in touch with relatives sounds complicated, services have become straightforward to setup, and they offer ways to keep in touch that simply weren't possible only a few years ago!