How College Kids Can Phone Home

Cell_laptop Remember in the movie "ET The Extraterrestrial" how ET created transmitter so he could communicate with the mothership and "phone home?"

Well fortunately for college students, the technology for keeping in touch with the mothership (i.e. mom or dad) today is much less complicated, easier to use, and can even be free.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the cell phone is the obvious first-choice for staying in touch with family. According to a report by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, voice calling is still the way teens prefer to reach parents. However, with 50 percent of teens sending 50 or more text messages per day, don't be surprised if the number of text messages you receive from your teen increases once he or she heads to college.

Video chat is another option for keeping in touch and there are many free and easy ways to do so. All you need is a web cam and the right email software or instant messaging tool. Gmail and Yahoo both incorporate video chat into their messaging systems as does AIM, MSN, and Skype. All of these are free to use and the setup is very easy. If there's not  a link to activate video chat, just click on "Help" and search for information on setting up a video chat.

And, of course, there's Facebook. There's a fine line parents must walk as the "friend" of their teen. In fact, Facebook is probably not the best place to be parental. It's probably better to use Facebook as more of a window into your teen's world as a college student. Likewise, college students may want to think before posting. Updates can sometimes be interpreted in ways not originally intended. There's the mom who was in a panic trying to reach her daughter after reading a Facebook status that stated "My life is over." When the mom finally reached her daughter, she discovered her daughter was alive and well but was upset over losing her keys.

The days of letter writing and calling home once a week are long gone and have been replaced by new technologies and methodologies that allow for far more instant, real-time communication which makes it far more likely that when it comes to staying in touch with family, there's no reason anyone should get left behind.

How do you keep in touch with each other? What have you found is the best way to keep in touch with your teen? And, what do college students prefer? Use the comment form below to share your thoughts and experiences.