Skype, Oovoo, etc. – internet calling services.
Our family plays host to many international exchange students. We also have close family on the other side of the country. We would love to travel over to them more often and the students want to speak with their parents and friends to share their experiences. However, a traditional phone call is out of budget when you want to spend 15 minutes or more with your loved one. And sometimes I just want to see how much my niece and nephew have grown or make sure they know who I am other than the once a year or once every two year crazy lady who pop in and insists on being their closest buddy in an instant.
Drawbacks: Delay, delay, delay….getting cut off or freezing mid-sentence. Having to arrange the time in advance when we both can be online. Being tied to set location (my daughter calls it a string phone- “mommy I can’t go find daddy cause I’m on the string phone”)
NOTE: This service does open you up to spam contacts and allows the sending of photos videos etc – be alert to your privacy settings and block unknown contacts. Look for the opportunity to set your public ID as “offline” or “away” when you are in-fact there.