Sep. 17, 2013 at 11:31 AM ET
So the kids have headed off to college! Are you an empty nester now or just feeling blue as you look into that empty room that was once a sea of clothes and dirty dishes? Well, fret no more! We have some fun ways for you to stay connected to your kids while they are away — and you don’t have to “friend” them either!
Google + Hangouts
This is a free service offered by Google. Hangouts are a fun and easy way to connect with your kids that are away at school, or anywhere else for that matter. All you need is a Google account. Once you sign up for Google +, you can find the Hangout frame and begin. The service allows you to choose from either doing a texting chat or a video chat. Every kid is different — some may feel much more comfortable connecting with you via text chat, and others may love to see their parents or caregivers! So, a video chat would be a fun solution for them. You can invite up to 10 people to "hang out" in your chat, so if you have other kids, grandparents, aunts and uncles and they want to join, they can! It allows you to share photos and YouTube videos as well. They also have a fun effects feature where you can add silly hats, glasses and other wacky items that can make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone.
Words With Friends
This is a game I bet you have played a hundred times, but did you know that this is an awesome way to stay connected with your kids? You set the bait of inviting them to play a game then once you are in the heated battle of words, you can click on the chat icon and boom, start reeling them in! You can start off slowly, by chatting about a move or the fact that you keep getting all vowels, and then ease them into a conversation about other things. It is absolutely covert! Zynga, the makers of WWF and several other games, recently did a survey and found that among players who responded, 60 percent play WWF to stay connected to family and friends and nearly 55 percent say they use the in-game chat feature to chat with family members. Nearly 45 percent of players that answered the survey admit to having played the game instead of calling, texting, or emailing a friend or family member. I think this is a fun and fantastic way to stay connected with your kids and teach them some useful words!
Everyme is a free private social network (kind of like a private Facebook) where you can set up your own group just for your family (or whoever you like). This is wonderful because you can avoid that awkward moment for both parties where either Mom tries to “friend” you or you are mortified when Mom starts making comments or posting old photos for all of your friends to see. We don’t want “Worlds Colliding”. This allows both parents and kids the freedom to share photos, videos, files and thoughts privately. This is another service that can include the whole family if you wish—friends too.