Today things are totally different. Almost all college students have cell phones and there is Skype and iChat for video conferences. The cell phone provider you use at home may not have a strong signal where your child is at school. Your son or daughter’s college should know which provider(s) work well in their area. It may be more beneficial for your college student to get a cell phone plan of their own with a provider that has good cell phone reception at their school if the current plan has fair to poor service in the area of their college. Do you or your child have a cellphone plan that limits voice minutes? Cellphone plans today offer unlimited talk time so this may be the time to switch cell phone plans and perhaps cell phone providers.
If your child is abroad the situation changes. Note that your cellphone plan generally is for domestic use only. You incur roaming charges when used to make calls both abroad and while abroad. Assuming you do not have an international plan, accessing data and texting while abroad will incur still more additional charges which may be substantial. Your child should consider renting a cellphone from a provider in the US for the country they will be abroad for most of the time they are there. Cellhire, Cellular Abroad and PlanetFone are three companies that provide rentals. This would be used for local calls made there. There is also video chatting. Skype and iChat are the two big ones here. We’ll keep our discussion to Skype as this works on both PC and Macs. iChat is a proprietary program that only works on Apple products. With Skype you can talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere, any length for free provided you are speaking with someone who is also using Skype. The only charge would be for internet connection fees if any. This is just like at home. Viber is a good app to have on a smartphone. If your child is on a wireless network, they can receive and make calls on Viber to those also on it and will not incur roaming charges or minutes used. They also can text using Viber when on a wireless network for free. Again they must be on a wireless network. I want to emphasize that. Recently my son was in Ecuador and he called me on Viber. The calls I received on Viber sounded as if he was next door. It was that clear. One other possibility to think about is MagicJack. For a $60.00 initial investment and a $35.00 annual subscription you can make unlimited calls to the USA and Canada from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection. If done right, charges for international calls can be very inexpensive. One other thing here. Cell phone plans in the US are starting to offer less expensive options for making and receiving international calls. This is something you should look into if you have a child who is studying abroad.
You will or should be having discussions with your college child about the new experiences they will be having. You also will need to also discuss how you will be communicating with him or her while they are away. Will their college friends be using the same cell phone provider if minutes are limited on the plan your child will be using? If you or your child does not have a cell phone plan with unlimited minutes, you need to address this. If an emergency was to arise how will you get in touch? Keep in mind if there is a natural disaster texting is better for your child reaching you or vice-versa then using the phone.
Regardless of what plan you choose, your student should also bring an Ethernet cable with them. If your student lives in a dorm where there is an Ethernet connection you and them will be glad particularly if the Ethernet connection is the only way for them to connect to the internet.
All colleges offer students a school email address likely ending in .edu. This should not be used for personal communication. Your child should maintain a personal email account. If you have something you need to discuss with them or vice versa, use their personal email address and make sure that your son or daughter continues to have a personal email address.
If you have additional questions about keeping in touch with your college child, reducing your monthly phone charges, or other computer problems, I can be reached at (917) 572-3468 or email me at email@example.com
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