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Go Online, Parents and Grandparents

LOL and connecting with the kids and grandkids

Web browsing. Web browsing moves you into a wider world. On the family side, you and the children can play games on-screen, such as Web Scrabble, bingo or Monopoly.

On the public side you can literally pursue any idea anywhere in the world. I've followed politics, learned history, joined interest groups, researched medical questions, drilled into financial topics, checked the latest news from global trouble spots and watched my local town meeting from my laptop.

Some older people never get beyond email on their computers. Those of you who know your way around the Web (possibly anyone reading this column) could probably become a neighborhood guru for people who haven't yet found how much more their computers can add to their lives.

Facebook. Finally, the Facebook question. On this free site, you set up a personal profile with as much or as little information as you want to share about yourself with family and friends.

On first hearing, Facebook might not sound like something worth your time, but I'll give you two reasons to sign up.

First, your teenage grandchildren probably have Facebook pages, and your children might, too. If they give you permission to view their pages, you can follow their doings and even send the occasional "Yay!" when they've achieved a goal they're proud of.

Much of what the kids write to their friends will be boring (to you) or incomprehensible. On the other hand, you'll learn more about their lives. You'll also see floods of photos of their parties, graduations and travels. Nowadays, we parents and grandparents get only the occasional photograph by email. Facebook is the mother lode.

Second, Facebook can lead you to people you've lost touch with. Say, for example, you wonder what happened to a close friend from high school or from your early married years. If he or she is on Facebook, the name will show up and you can reconnect. You might also get messages from people looking for you. I find that the older I get, the more important shared memories become.

My mother, at 96, still fires up her computer and shoots off emails to her extended family. We send her updates on what we and our kids are up to. She began my Web adventure. I'm thanking her here for opening up my life online.

You may also like: Create a family Facebook group. >>

Jane Bryant Quinn is a personal finance expert and author of Making the Most of Your Money NOW.

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