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When technology can be good for kids

Eoin Dodds, on Facetime from Scotland

Eoin Dodds, on Facetime from Scotland Credit: Margaret Dodds

In my day, I had pen pals. Those pen pals and I took the time to sit down and write a letter, photograph ourselves with an old-school camera, have the film developed and printed, address an envelope, get the right postage on the envelope so it would be sure to arrive at its designated far-off locale and then finally walk to a mailbox and put the letter inside. Then we had to wait for a reply that might not ever even arrive.

Today the written letter appears to be dead -- and I say, farewell.

Thanks to technology, children on separate continents don't have to use a writing instrument to stay in touch. Sure, there's email, but even better, there's video conferencing.

Facetime is my son Harrison's method of choice when he wants to talk to his Scottish "pen pal" Eoin (above). The 8-year-old boys met on vacation during a ferry between Troon, Scotland, and Larne, Northern Ireland, and became instant friends.

Although their playdate lasted as long as their voyage -- two hours -- their friendship has endured through their smartphones. This week when they connected, they talked about what they were doing in school (Eoin had to make a crown, bunting and red-white-and-blue outfits for the Diamond Jubilee; Harrison groaned, "math"), what their backyards look like (they showed each other, and Harrison boasted maybe a little too much about his strawberry garden) and where they are going this summer (Eoin asked if Harrison could meet him in Paris come July).

They also learned they had something in common, although it took a little effort.

Eoin told Harrison that he was in "Cubs." Harrison asked, "Cubes? I don't understand." Then Eoin said, "Cubs, like Scouts." Harrison asked, "Scoots?"

"No," said Eoin. "Boy Scouts."

"Ahhh," said Harrison, who mentioned that he was in Boy Scouts, too.

Back in the day, that exchange would have taken a wee bit longer, as Eoin might say.

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