Ahh, summertime. Blissful relaxation, fun in the sun and backyard BBQs.
But don’t forget that Timmy’s baseball tournament is coming up and Dad will be out of town on his golfing trip this weekend. And good luck planning that BBQ around visiting day at summer camp.
Don’t give up on family bonding time this summer. Before you cancel that trip to Wally World, try coordinating using one of these social networks.
1. Facebook for Families
Looking for a more private Facebook alternative for your family? There are tons of options for private social networks. These three stand out as the simplest alternatives for families, while still providing the familiar social media experience.
One thing FamilyLeaf got right: It doesn’t try to copy the Facebook color scheme. The site offers a simplified, refreshing take on social media, paring its features down to the absolute necessities. Users can post status updates and photos to their walls, but can’t send a private message to another user or tag someone in a post. Users can also host discussions and save their family’s contact information on this private site. But there are no calendar capabilities or file sharing options. For those looking for just the basics, FamilyLeaf does the trick.
FamilyWall expands on FamilyLeaf’s slimmed-down social media experience, adding a few features, such as a calendar and private messaging. The maps in the mobile version might help parents keep track of their wandering teenagers. Instead of asking kids to send a text when they arrive at a friend’s house, parents can simply ask them to check in so they can view the location.
eFamily.com, the social network formerly known as Famiva, boasts a family tree and stories section in addition to the features included on FamilyWall and FamilyLeaf. eFamily.com stands out with its reminders feature: Create a shared reminder for making beds, remembering lunch money or picking up milk on the way home from work. One downside to eFamily: The design is fairly outdated and cluttered compared to competitors.
2. Special Agents
So you’re not into the whole “status update” thing. No problem. These networks are perfect for specialized tasks that require familial help.
With JustFamily, share photos among family members, because let’s face it: Your dad isn’t the best at typing. Users can save, organize and share photos, as well as include a short message or caption with each. With an iOS app, downloadable Windows uploader and web app, JustFamily shares your photos regardless of the device on which you captured them.
Rootsy is ideal for users looking to save family memories or create a family tree. Like Ancestry.com, Rootsy helps you to organize your family tree, add photos and videos and then share it with family members. Rootsy encourages users to flesh out trees with personal memories and photos, rather than just the names and old documents of long-ago deceased relatives. The family tree becomes a living document, where users can connect over happy memories or lost loved ones. Text and photos appear in a virtual scrapbook that anyone in the family can easily access. But if Rootsy isn’t a good fit, try Geni, a similar site that joins your family tree to projects like “RMS Lusitania – Saloon Passengers” or “Daughters of the American Revolution.”
No one plans major projects better than Pinterest. Plan your wedding with mom or plot a major house renovation with your spouse by pinning content from across the Internet, and organize each project on separate boards. Don’t want mom to see ideas for her surprise 60th birthday party? Use one of your three available secret boards and pin away.
3. Best All-Around
These three networks offer a wealth of sharing and storage options, for a small fee in some cases. Here are our top choices:
While most “family” social networks are just privatized Facebook lookalikes, Family Crossings takes social media to a whole new familial level. Because families share more than photos, videos and the occasional party invite, Family Crossings allows users to share recipes, addresses, coupons, software and files — and even post to family forums (for example: My potty-mouthed baby keeps escaping from his crib, any ideas?). Family Crossings provides rules and etiquette on table manners, as well as tips to make the most from your calendar and photo sharing.
Free accounts get only 250 MB of cloud storage, but standard ($19.95/year for 350 MB) or premium ($9.95/month for 500 MB) versions are available, too.
Like Family Crossings, MyFamily.com offers a Facebook-like experience with a wealth of extra features. The site has all the basics that Facebook users have grown accustomed to, with a few tweaks. Each family receives unlimited storage to save and share files, defaulted privacy settings (only invited family members can join), the ability to create family trees (courtesy of Ancestry.com) and discussion boards. MyFamily.com’s services ring up at $29.95 per year, which isn’t too bad if you split the cost among family members.
Ok, so it’s not devoted to families, but before you completely write off Google+ as a huge mistake, think about this: With over 425 Gmail users out there, odds are you have family members already set up on Google+.
Google+ accounts give users access to the full suite of Google services, including Calendar, Groups, Drive, Photos, Blogger and YouTube, all of which can be seamlessly shared with other Google users. Throw in 15 GB of free storage and you’ve got yourself a social networking powerhouse that’s free. Don’t forget: You can create Hangouts with up to 10 family members at one time, and access Chat via desktop or mobile, so there’s no need to switch between messaging services. Plus, all photos on your Android are automatically synced to your Google+ account (privately, of course).
So, go ahead: Start organizing that family vacation album or build your family tree. With these social media networks, you’ll have all the tools at your disposal to keep your family running like a well-oiled machine.
What social media sites do you use for your family? What tricks do you use on the sites you already belong to? Let us know in the comments.
Mashable composite, image via iStockphoto, catrinka81