Using Technology to Keep Families Connected
(ARA) - When time, geography or financial constraints keep you
from being with family, a little old-fashioned imagination combined
with some of today's technological conveniences can keep you connected
and make you feel . . . almost as if you're there.
According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive and sponsored
by Modern Woodmen of America, 74 percent of Americans utilize
the Internet for communicating via e-mails and passing along photos.
And, while only one in six have created a family Web site, nearly
40 percent of us are interested in the possibility.
"As the demographic profile of those with access to the Internet
slowly begins to reflect the overall American demographics, we
anticipated seeing more family communication occurring via technology,"
said Sharon Snawerdt, public relations coordinator for Modern
Woodmen of America. "More than three in five Americans use e-mail
to get in touch with family, with more than two in five reporting
In addition, family Web sites, instant messaging and digital
cameras, including digital camcorders and Web cams, are quickly
taking their place along with the telephone and postal service
as popular methods for communicating from afar.
Web sites -- an exciting answer to sharing news
For the Kiechle family of Valbonne, France, the family Web site
plays an important role in maintaining connections with family
and friends in the United States.
"When we first moved here [France], all our relatives, friends,
and acquaintances went into mild shock, wondering what in the
world we were doing," comments Daniel Kiechle, who created his
family Web site in 1995, five years after his job transplanted
him, his wife and two sons from Huntington, Long Island. "The
responses have been great. Grandma even learned how to use a Mac
and subscribed to Earthlink when she found out that this enabled
her to receive photos of her grandchildren the day they were taken!"
Once you've made up your mind to take advantage of today's technology
to stay in closer touch with family, there is a large list of
possible equipment which you will need or want to consider.
Computer - Your computer should have at least a 56K modem, although
for video and Web cams a DSL line or faster is preferred, a serial
port, a parallel port, a USB port, and a Firewire/IEEE-1394 (your
computer expert will understand this requirement).
Digital camera - A digital camera records and stores photographic
images in digital (electronic) form that can be fed to a computer
Digital camcorder - A digital camcorder records and stores video
images in digital (electronic) format that can be fed to a computer
Compatible flash memory cards, for the digital camera or camcorder
- A small "disk" used to store data such as text, pictures, audio,
and video, for use on small, portable or remote computing devices.
Web cam - A device that takes digital (camcorder) images and
transmits the images to a Web page, which hosts images or even
Scanner - A scanner captures images (somewhat like a photocopier)
from photographic prints, posters, magazine pages, and similar
sources for use on a computer.
Printer - Most inkjet printers produce good enough quality for
Snapshot Software - The snapshot software (which sometimes comes
with your digital camera or camcorder) usually uses your Internet
connection to upload a single snapshot captured from the camera
set up on your computer.
Keeping families connected
Whatever method you choose, whether the technological wonders
of a family Web site, instant messaging, voice/video Internet
chatting, or the traditional communication choices of phone and
mail, the end result should be to surround yourself with the presence
of your family no matter how many miles lie between you.
"We don't want people to think that the Internet can replace
in-person interaction," Weinberg concludes. "But we all know that
sometimes being together isn't possible. We think the Internet
is at its best when it enables people to remain connected and
make those face-to-face meetings better, richer and more wonderful."
For more information about this equipment and how to get started,
Take a closer look at how modern technology can bring you together.
Watching Grandma blow a kiss to her granddaughter over a Web cam
may not be the same as breaking bread at their table, but it will
create a special memory and bond -- even if it is electronic.