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But the visits aren’t for everyone.
Dan Zevin, the author of “Dan Gets a Minivan,” says his family gave up after one video visit with his in-laws. “The kids were too young, and the grandparents were too old,” he said.
His son Leo, then 4 years old, knocked the Zevins’ camera down when he tried to wrap his stuffed snake around it. Meanwhile, out in California, the grandparents spent most of the chat trying to figure out where to angle their own camera. “Can you see me?” they kept asking.
“There was a lot of stage direction going on,” Zevin said.
At least Zevin’s in-laws gave it a try. Almost half of the grandparents surveyed by the AARP said they communicate with distant grand kids only by phone — no e-mail, no text, and no Skype, according to a 2011 study.
Although video chatting has gotten easier, with in-computer cameras and FaceTime on Apple devices, challenges still abound. Rosen, the Mac consultant, says his father and his niece and nephew had so much trouble getting the audio to work during a recent Skype call that they kept the picture on but spoke by phone.
Sometimes the trouble isn’t a bad connection — but one that’s too good. When Andrew Buckley’s 9-year-old daughter, Sofie, talks to her mother’s parents in Austria, he makes sure the messy floor is not in view.
“Her grandmother is very clean,” said Buckley, a producer of WBGH’s Web series, “Hit and Run History.”
If there’s one problem with video chatting, it’s scheduling. Two of the busiest groups these days seem to be kids, with their extracurricular activities, and grandparents, with theirs. Goyer, the author of the Met Life study, has some advice: “You need to make it less of an occasion and more of a habit,” she said.
That’s what Lily’s grandparents, the Linsenmayers, do. In fact, the Newton couple speaks to her so regularly that the 18-month-old is outraged when the screen occasionally freezes up or some other technical problem emerges.
“She doesn’t understand what’s going on,” Cathy Linsenmayer said.
Meanwhile, perhaps nothing captures modern grandparenting like the way Lily says goodnight. “You see her little hand going up to close the computer,” Grandma reported. Then a message appears on their screen: “Lily Cummings went offline.”