As often as I report on our need as parents to guide and direct, sometimes even curb our kids’ Internet usage, I will also be the first to admit the Internet has a lot of potential. It can be used to educate, influence and even bring kids together with distant family members they may not get to see on a regular basis.

Researchers at Georgia Tech Microsoft Research Center are taking child-related digital communication to a whole new level: video playdates.

Not only does this have amazing capabilities to carry children from the womb into the tech world, it can bridge cultural gaps and aid in social skill building. These innovative new video playdates are also an opportunity for children to use their imaginations and get creative by building new games to play together.

Among challenges faced by researchers are how easily distracted young toddlers are and their difficulty understanding how the technology itself works. Georgia Tech candidate, Lana Yarosh says they are doing everything they can to work around these difficulties. Yarosh has been testing add-ons she hopes will make video interaction more engaging for young children.

In one example, two boys enjoyed showing off their toys and having a virtual battle in which no one got physically hurt.

Yarosh admitted that until technology improved, webcams especially, the trend may not catch on, but she has high hopes it may be a great way for parents who live apart from one another to keep their children socially involved.

Of course, in my infinite skepticism, a light bulb went off above my head right away that thought, “Oh no! Another virtual babysitter parents can plunk their kids down in front of so they can do other things.”