Even if you’re not used to video chat tools, you can get up to speed pretty easily
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation for those who might not be technically savvy. While today’s communications technology can seem daunting to some, there are a variety of remote communication tools to connect with family and friends that are pretty easy to use.
While most of the U.S. is practicing some form of social distancing due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has indicated that older adults are at higher risk for severe illness and recommends that those over 65 stay home. Whether you’re sheltering in place with others or alone, virtual visits with family and friends and other online activities can help combat isolation and loneliness and provide a way to stay connected.
At Viasat, we deeply understand the importance of connection, especially during difficult times. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of four of the most popular, free and easy-to-use remote communications technology tools and resources – along with an idea of how they work and how they can be used to keep in touch. If you get stuck, don’t get frustrated. Help is just a Google search away.
Skype: This convenient, easy-to-use video chatting program from Microsoft allows you to connect with one or more loved ones from a distance, using the camera on your computer, tablet or smartphone. It’s free if you are calling someone who also uses Skype, and you can talk for as long as you want.
It’s pretty easy to sign up, too. Just visit the Skype website or the app store (for your specific mobile device) and download. Then, create an account and username which connects to your email address or phone number. After creating an account, you will be able to import existing contacts, or look up people by using the search function.
FaceTime: If you use an Apple device like an iPhone or iPad, you already have FaceTime installed, and you can use it to call anyone who also uses an Apple device. To make a FaceTime call, all you need is the person’s phone number or registered email address. Since FaceTime only works on Apple devices, you’ll need to find out what brand of smartphone your family and friends use before calling.
WhatsApp: One of the most popular mobile social apps in the world, rumors are that even the British Royal family has a WhatsApp group. With WhatsApp, you can send unlimited texts, photos, audios and videos to family and friends on the app. Users can also make free video calls, although it can impact data usage.
What’s great about WhatsApp is that you can create group chats, and keep in touch with just about everyone – even if they live in another country – for free. It’s easy to use, too. You can install it on your computer or get the app on any mobile device. From there, just set up your account and find your contacts using the search tool.
Google Hangouts: This is a very easy one to get going with, especially if you already have a Gmail account. Like most things Google, Google Hangouts is free, and you can use it to do video calls one-on-one or with groups. It also works as a free phone service if you’re just wanting to talk.
Zoom: Over the past month, Zoom users have skyrocketed. In fact, Viasat reported about a 1,000% uptick in the use of the video-conferencing platform in the past few weeks. While a lot of the usage is coming from people working from home, it’s also becoming popular as a way to keep in touch with family and groups of friends.
To get started with Zoom, all you have to do is sign up. Their basic plan is free, and you can host up to 100 people. There’s a 40-minute limit on group meetings. If you want more time, you can choose from a variety of plans for a monthly fee. Even if you don’t set up a Zoom account, if someone sends you an email with a link to a Zoom meeting, you just click on the link and it takes you right into the “meeting” – all you need to do is to make sure your audio and video are turned on and you’re ready to go.
*Note: Recent news reports have identified some potential security risks with Zoom, so proceed with caution. If you are already using the desktop app, be sure to update it to the latest version, which addresses some of those concerns. You can learn more and find links to Zoom tutorials here.
While virtual visits may not be the same as seeing someone in person, during these uncertain times, one thing is very certain. It’s more important than ever to keep in touch with loved ones. And these tools, along with the Viasat Residential service, can help ensure you stay connected. After the crisis is over, you can continue to enjoy staying in touch with family using these tools now that you’ve mastered them!