If you can't see elderly parents, or friends with medical conditions, what can you do to keep in touch? You can send a letter, of course, or make a landline phone call, but video calls allow you to speak and see each other.

What are they?

Video meeting services allow you socialise over the internet by phone or on a laptop or home computer (or even smartwatch) using a microphone and a video by using a webcam.

What do you need?

Any modern smart phone or computer will do. You log into the website or download the app, register an account, and off you go.

Are they expensive?

There are professional services you need to pay for but most have a basic, free one which would be fine for family chats.

I've heard of Skype?

It was the first big one and began in 2003, back when the dinosaurs roamed the tech jungle. You do get a lot for free including a maximum video meeting size of 50 – handy if you have a big family. Everyone using it needs to have an account which could be hard to set up for older people over the phone.

What's the other options?

Zoom is big at the moment. You can use it with an Apple or Android phone or from your computer. It's easy to 'invite' people to the 'meeting' – just send them a link. You can record your meetings – nice if you have small children that elderly relations might like to watch again. If you normally use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, video calling is simple: navigate to your desired conversation and hit the 'video call' button on the top of the screen. You can call people one-on-one or initiate a group conversation.

What's Teams?

All the rage, and eclipsing Skype, Microsoft Teams is free with Office 365 and works on your computer and phone. It has loads of features such as GIFs, stickers and emojis – which your nana might not need. It's very easy to use. We use it on The Herald features desk for meetings now we are working from back bedrooms and dining tables across Scotland. Once launched, on the left is your contacts, find the person you want and click the small video camera. Remember to switch the camera on so they can see you. It allows you to blur the background – which makes your house look more like a professional environment, but that's for work use.

What's the easiest?

If you have an Apple device, Facetime is a doddle. In fact you've probably already used it by mistake, when you've hit the button and been rewarded by your big head looming before you. Find the number of the person you want to talk to, press the FaceTime button and up they will pop. Ideal for checking in on elderly parents, though they'll need to have Apple phones, too. Also works on Apple Mac computers or tablets. Messenger and WhatsApp are also easy-to-use services if you aren't in the Apple sphere.

What are the kids using?

Houseparty is popular with the young 'uns. You can chat with up to eight people. It accesses, as long as you agree, your contacts. A bit like WhatsApp, it lets you see which of your friends and relations are on it, then you can invite them to meet up, virtually. You can also join chats that any of your contacts are having without being invited, which is more spontaneous and like real life.