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Family photo sharing

At the risk of stating the obvious, digital photography is one of the great revolutions of our time. By eliminating the cost of film and developing-and making cameras cheaper, smaller and more readily available-the technology has sparked a renaissance in photo taking.

Now that most cell phones have built-in cameras, digital cameras are literally everywhere and always with us. Even those of us who don’t think to pack our cameras when we leave the house probably have a camera, thanks to cell phones. This, of course, raises some safety and privacy concerns for children and teens.

If your child has a cell phone with a camera, make sure you talk about appropriate use. They should never share pictures that include other people without their permission and should never use those cameras for snapping photos of people who are not dressed appropriately or in compromising positions. Having fun at a slumber party is fine; taking pictures of friends in their nighties or underwear is definitely off limits. And make sure your kids are aware of what others around them are doing with their cameras.

But there are plenty of great things about digital photography. One of the biggest changes is the way we show off our pictures. Until a few years ago, the only way to share photos was through prints, but most digital pictures taken today are never printed.  Instead, they’re viewed on a screen instead of paper or, I suppose, never shared at all.

In some cases, we share our pictures by showing them to our friends and family on our camera or phone’s LCD screen. That gives us that instant gratification that my generation first enjoyed back with Polaroid cameras. But unlike those very pricey Polaroid prints, digital images are free.

Speaking of free, there are also a number of ways to share photos online, including social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo, as well as dedicated photo sharing sites like Flickr (part of Yahoo!), SnapFish, Shutterfly, Picasa and Photobucket.

Whichever service you use, you’re sure to find some great features including the ability to create albums that you can share online with friends and family. And if you’re one of those people who like pictures on paper, don’t despair. Most of these services, including Flickr, allow you or your family and friends to order prints.

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