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Internet Safety


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 frequent use."

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!"

Getting started

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 later on.

Digital camcorder - A digital camcorder records and stores video images in digital (electronic) format that can be fed to a computer later on.

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 live video.

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 personal use.

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, visit www.gatherings.info.

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.

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