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Social networking sites for families

February 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Last year, about 40 million Americans moved, and about one in five relocated more than 50 miles from their old home.That makes having the family over for dinner no very simple for most people.

More and more families are reconnecting, sharing stories and photos, online. It's the 21st century way to stay connected.

And now family Web sites are making it easier then ever for long-lost relatives, or families that no longer live in the same area, to stay connected, 24-7.

Not long ago, Pam Shaffner re-connected with her brother and sister online after many years. Today, she feels really close to her family -though she's never even met some of them.

"It had been so many years since I had seen my family, and now I've met all kind of people that I didn't realize even existed," said Pam Shaffner. "We share pictures with each other, we talk with each other, it's almost like we know each other now."

Shaffner is one of a growing number of people who are using family Internet Web sites to stay close to relatives when time and distance get in the way.

"We can put videos, pictures, we do audio stories, we share everything we're doing each day, we can share recipes, there's not much we can't do," said Shaffner.

Family Web sites are modeled after social networking places like MySpace and Facebook.

"It's definitely one of the major trends out there in this idea of what we do on the Web," said Brian Cooley, Editor-at-large, CNET.com.

Some family sites are free while others charge annual or monthly fees. Most offer a secure spot for invited members only to upload family photos, videos, news, recipes, family-tree entries, even audio recordings. Cooley says they have all the amenities of other social networking sites - but with a difference.

"These sites are definitely different right up front, in the fact that they feel safe, clean," said Cooley.

"It's very important that people can't just get into our different pictures and life stories," said Shaffner.

As her family Web site's administrator, Shaffner gets to decide who can do what on the site. It's a bit like hosting a never-ending family reunion. And that's a job Shaffner is thrilled to have.

"Every family needs a Web site, and this is a wonderful place to go," said Shaffner.

Monthly fees for family Web sites usually cost less than $20 per month. That's for ad-free sites with increased functions or access. But many sites are offering free versions in order to build their customer base.

 

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