Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Webcams Help You Stay In Touch

I live 6,000 miles and 2 oceans away from my family. There's no "just stopping by" when it takes a 12 hour flight to see each other. We speak on the phone a few times a week, which works for the adults in the family, but it's a lot harder to keep relationships strong when you have young children who aren't able to or interested in holding long involved phone conversations. Add to that the fact that children change so quickly physically and it becomes twice as hard.

Enter the webcam.

For just a few dollars, I bought a webcam, and then for a few more dollars I ordered one online to be delivered to my parents home back in the States. Presto, instant video conferencing. Instead of my daughter refusing to say more than hello and then immediately goodbye on the phone, we now have 20 minute duets with Grandma and Grandpa (I'd say trio but my father never actually sings out loud, he leaves that to my mom). The kids can drag their latest treasures out of their rooms, show off school art projects and lost teeth, sing the latest song they learned in camp, and just chat with my family. It works so well that we even talked my sister into getting one, and now the cousins can talk directly.

I can't say enough how wonderful this has been for our family. Because they "see" each other all the time, there is absolutely no hesitation when we first get together after a long time apart. Nothing warms my heart (or my parents') like the sight of my children racing pell mell through the airport to rush into the arms of their grandparents as they come through the gate.
And to top it all off, it's free. All you need is a high-speed internet connection and an IM program like MS Messenger. No more running up long-distance phone bills.
I can't recommend this highly enough - webcams are an amazing way to keep a far-flung family together. Now, if they could just do something about that pesky 7 hour time difference...
Stop by Rocks In My Dryer for more great tips.


Anonymous said...

I wish there was highspeed internet and webcams 11 years ago when I first came to Japan as a student. That would have saved me a lot of phone bills and wet hankies.

Kathy in WA said...

Wow, this is so interesting. We use Skype to talk to our friends in Thailand (totally free--amazing) but we haven't ever gone in the web cam direction. My parents just left the sad, slow world of dial-up and now have high speed internet. I wonder if they would be interested in video cam. Does it feel strange to have someone look at you while you're talking? How much of a lag is there in the sound and video? Do you have to pause and let them finish talking before speaking? I know with Sykpe sometimes I need to be careful not to interrupt or I miss what they're saying.

Thanks for the tip. Something to look into pursuing. I like the idea of the kids using it with their cousins. :)

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Robin said...

There is a little bit of a lag. I think the higher end cameras might handle that better though. Still manageable though, probably not any worse than you're already used to with Skype. I think the benefits of being able to see each other outweigh the hassles. I don't bother with it for calls between the adults, but for the kids it makes a huge difference in the level of interaction.

FYI, we used to use Skype for this, but will now be switching to MSM. My IT guy said that Skype is a bit nefarious - it utilizes YOUR processor's power for other users, even when you're not logged into the program!

Totallyscrappy said...

I had almost forgotten that I have one of these things and have never hooked it up!

Jo said...

Sounds just the thing to keep those relationships alive. I wish I'd had one in Hong Kong, it's not the same talking down a phoneline. I think skype had just come out when I left.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I think that picture is of MY webcam; we use it to talk to my sisters.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about webcams...and now that I've finally got my own laptop, it might be something worth considering! :)