Technology is constantly changing and, as a result, the way that people communicate is constantly changing. Children today know how to use a smartphone before they can talk, and as they grow into pre-teens and teenagers, more young people rely on texting, Facebooking and Snapchatting rather than speaking on the phone or writing letters.
For grandparents who live far away from their grandkids and don’t get to see them enough, video chat can be a great way to keep in touch and, for the littlest ones, to get to stay familiar with you between visits. Video chat is also one of the easiest new telecommunications options to learn and is more widely available, as it’s available to use on your desktop computer rather than just on a smartphone or tablet.
But, just like any new technology, video chat can be intimidating and overwhelming to learn about. We’re here to help answer all your questions about video chat and tell you why video chatting with your grandchild can be a great way for you to bond and stay in touch.
The technical term for “video chat” is “videotelephony,” and it’s also known as “video conferencing.” It really just boils down to a voice and face-to-face conversation between two or more people on video and in real time using the Internet, webcams and video-chat software.
Video conferencing technology dates back to the 1870s and was experimented with in the 1920s and again in the 1970s by AT&T. But huge inroads were made during the computer revolution of the 1980s and '90s. In 2003, the appearance of Skype, still one of the most popular video-conferencing tools, made video chat available to anyone who had a computer and a webcam. Skype came to the iPhone in 2009, and FaceTime emerged in 2010 on the iPhone 4 — making video-chat mobile and even more accessible.
Your grandchildren’s generation is so interconnected with modern technology that speaking on the phone or writing letters has become foreign to them. If you want your pre-teen and teenage grandchildren to communicate with you, tapping into modern technologies is a great way to entice them. Plus, it’s a great compromise between modern technology (which also includes more complex tools like Snapchat) and old-school communication (like phones and talking in person). And you might even gain some “cool” points from your grandkids along the way.
Video chatting with your smaller grandchildren allows you to see them in all their cuteness, and for them to see you as they grow and begin to make visual connections and develop relationships in their early years. If you don’t get to see your little ones often, video chat can help with facial recognition so that when you do reunite at Christmas, they’re more likely to recognize you, even at a younger age.
In order to video chat with your grandchildren, you will need either a smartphone with a camera or a desktop or laptop computer. Most newer computers have a built-in webcam and microphone for you to use, but if you have an older model, you may also need to stop at your local Best Buy and pick up a webcam.
If you are using a smartphone to video chat, you’ll also need a video chat app. If you’re using a computer, you’ll need to install a video-chat program. Talk to your grandkids and their children about which video-chat app or program to use (more info on different app options below).
Finally, you do need Wi-Fi or a data plan on your phone to video chat.
The two most popular video-chat programs and apps are: Skype and FaceTime.
FaceTime is arguably easier to use and more intuitive, so it’s a great video-chat app or program for beginners. But it is only available on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. You and your grandkids or their parents must both have Apple phones or computers to use FaceTime. If you do, FaceTime will be the easiest option for you.
The app comes pre-installed on all Apple products, so you don’t have to figure out how to download it. And, if you’re using it on your iPhone, it automatically connects with the phone’s contacts, making it easier to call your grandkids. FaceTime also allows for group video calls for free, so you can video chat with several grandkids at once!
Read Apple's FaceTime user guide →
Skype can be used on Mac and Windows computers as well as most Smartphones. Though the smartphone app and computer program are both free, you can only video chat with more than one other caller if you upgrade to the Premium Plan for $8.99 per month. You can also use the Premium Plan to voice call (but not video chat) with landline phones.
If you and your grandkids or their parents don’t use Apple products, then Skype is the most widely used video-chat tool. It can be more complex than the other options there, as you do have to download computer software or a smartphone app, set up an account with a username, and you need to know the username of the person you wish to video chat with.
Skype set-up instructions →
Facebook Messenger can be used on any smartphone or computer to FaceTime with your grandkids. However, you and your grandchild or their parent must have Facebook accounts. If you’re using Facebook Messenger on your smartphone, you do need to download the Facebook Messenger App. However, it will automatically connect you to your Facebook contacts to video chat with them. If you’re using Facebook Messenger on your computer, you do not need to install any programs and can video chat right from your browser.
Learn more about Facebook Messenger →
And of course, the BEST way to get to know your grandkid better is to take them on an epic, unforgettable Grandparent Learning Adventure with Road Scholar.
About the Author: Our guest blogger this week is Kelsey Knoedler, a Marketing Writer at Road Scholar and who our social media. A native of Wisconsin, Kelsey discovered her love for travel when she studied abroad in Ireland. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and loves combining her passions for travel and writing in her role at Road Scholar!
Stay in the loop on our new blogs, special offers, new adventures and more.