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Four ways to keep in touch with parents when away at school

Going away for college will be some of the best years of your life, but you're still going to need to talk to your parents.

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Jason Cipriani/CNET

Moving away for college is an exciting time in life. You're completely on your own, no parents in sight, and hundreds of like-minded people around the same age. Freedom! But at the end of a long day when you're feeling homesick, only your parents have the remedy.

The beauty of technology is that communicating in short bursts or marathon sessions is incredibly easy and accessible from nearly anywhere. Of course there's the obvious means of communication such as picking up a phone and calling or sending a text message or an email, but what about going beyond that?

Video calls

There's nothing like some face time. Apple users are able to take advantage of FaceTime across iOS and OS X with little effort. But the biggest drawback to using FaceTime is that you're limited to only calling someone who also uses an Apple device. For calling outside of Apple's walled garden, use services such as Skype and Hangouts.

All the above services are free, offer video calling, and work on both desktops and mobile devices. Unlike Apple's solution, the latter two offerings included instant messaging without the need for an additional app.

Instant messaging

With services such as Hangouts, Skype, and iMessage available, is there really any need to look for additional apps? Of course there is! We recently rounded up some of the best messaging apps available, including BBM (don't laugh, it's actually pretty good), Viber, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Snapchat?

I know, I know. Having your parents on Snapchat isn't going to do anything to up your street cred, but the app is actually really useful for quickly sharing photos and video. If you'd rather keep your parents out of your Snapchat business, you can always start using Facebook's Slingshot app.

Photo services

Snapchat and Slingshot are designed to share photos that disappear just as quickly as they appeared, and they serve their purpose quite well. But some photos deserve to be honored for longer periods of time. For keeping better record of big events at school, consider sharing an iCloud Photo Stream with your family members. Unfortunately, as with all things Apple, shared Photo Streams are limited to fellow Apple users.

Using Dropbox you're able to upload (and let others upload) photos and videos to a shared album. Just be sure to disable auto-upload to prevent any embarrassing photos from being shared with your parents.

Y0u can help your fellow students out by leaving the name of an app or service you use to stay in touch with friends and family back home.