Thursday, October 20, 2011

Using Technology to Stay in Contact*

*A soon-to-be-obsolete checklist of new tools that you can use to stay in touch with your kids and other family member. (Please help by sending your comments with new ideas!)

When families split up, there's always a challenge in staying in contact with each other. Mostly, this is an issue for parents, grandparents and children, but it can also come up when parents are trying to coordinate their activities with their children. For our younger readers, these may not be big news. For the more "experienced" readers, this may provide some new tools to help.

Without further ado, here's a list of 10 relatively new "tools" you can use. I will mention some brand names, but I have no financial connection to any of them. They are simply things I have run across that seemed helpful, not too expensive and easy to work with. These suggestions apply whether the family members live in the same city, across the county, across the state or across the country.

1. An on-line calendar. Google has a calendar that is easily accessible and fairly easy to work with. In addition, there is at least one private company, Our Family Wizard, which provides a calendar that is popular and seems to work well. I'm sure there are several more such calendar systems and there will be even more. Just look around on line to find one you like.

2. Texting. This has become very common-place and is close to universal. It completely eliminates the old need to have scheduled times when children had to be home to receive a phone call from their parents. Instead, we can have frequent, short and more normal contact -- once you learn the abbreviations.

3. Cell phones. Similarly, this eliminates formal phone calls and allows frequent and fun informal contact between parents and children.

4. Email. This is probably better suited to older children and certainly for adults. It is easily eclipsing snail mail, but younger kids may choose other systems for their messages.

5. Skype. You can sign up for this and then have visual phone calls with your family and friends. Most new computers will have a camera, or you can easily find a very inexpensive camera to attach to your computer if it doesn't have one.

6. Blogs. It is easy to create a family blog that is not public. You can have it restricted to only specified people (parents, grandparents, children, cousins, etc.) and restrict the password. On the blog, you and family members could report on trips, events and activities. It could be like an annual holiday newsletter, but updated much more frequently. Different people can be given permission to write on the blog, so you can get a variety of personal perspectives. You can post photos as well. There are a number of free platforms for setting up blogs, including Blogger (Google) and WordPress. They are very easy to set up and require almost no technical knowledge. You would want to carefully protect your privacy with the settings.

7. Photo sharing. There are several photos sharing sites available for free, and you can use Facebook and email. Getting in the habit of taking photos with a cell phone (or a camera) and then immediately sharing them with family can be a great way to stay closely connected.

8. Facebook. You can keep up with current events and photos and you can send direct messages to your Friends. Facebook is very easy to learn and use, although you have to watch out for their frequent changes and you should carefully manage your privacy settings. Also, keep in mind that most of what you post will be visible to a large group of people, so think before you post. Google now has a version, so be prepared to work in both systems.

9. YouTube videos. It is easy to set up a YouTube account for yourself and YouTube has videos explaining how to do almost anything. If you need help understanding or implementing any suggestions in this post, just look for a YouTube video to learn how. You and your family members can post videos of yourselves and others, which can make it easy to keep up with each other.

10. Scan and send. Scanners are cheap and easy to use now, so you can capture photos or documents and then send them by email or post them on various sites. If you need to talk about vacation plans, for example, you can send information this way.

How to Get Started:
For more details on these various options, including how to do it, a good starting place would be YouTube. If you want to read about any of these, use Google or other search engines and look up the key words (the titles of the 10 methods, for example).

Now for Your Part:
Please send your suggestions and new tools to share with others who may be trying to maintain a distant relationship. Many of these ideas are not terribly new, but they are new additions to traditional post-divorce communications. I expect there will always be newer and better ways to communicate and your ideas can help many other people. Please send your comments with suggestions and products you have used or learned about. Thanks for sharing!

No comments: