Helping Grandparents Stay in Touch Using Technology

Keeping in contact with friends and family is important to us as people.  If that weren’t true, we wouldn’t have devised so many ways to do it.  We’ve moved beyond the letters our parents and grandparents used to write and the occasional phone call too keep in touch.  Sharing news this way could take several days, or even a couple of weeks.

Today, our big news can be shared in an instant with a status update, tweet, or picture.  The way we keep in touch has shifted so dramatically in such a relatively short amount of time that it’s no wonder grandparents can sometimes get overwhelmed.  Whether you live far away or in the same town, helping your parents learn the technology your kids use to communicate can be rewarding.  Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Be patient.  Remember, electronic devices generally and electronic communication specifically can be intimidating to people who’ve never tried it.  Allow them to practice each new step on their own before introducing something new.  Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and demonstrate more than once.

Build on what they already know.  If your parents or grandparents already own a cell phone, take time to teach them how to read and send text messages.  Make sure that the people they will be trying to reach are easily labeled in their contacts list.  Have them practice sending and checking a few messages with you there.  This is a simple way for them to keep in contact, especially with their teenage grandkids.

Start small.  You can’t teach someone how to use a social networking site if they don’t know how to open an internet browser.  Make sure they know how to open and close windows.  Show them how to minimize windows and where to find them once they’ve been minimized.  Be sure they are comfortable using a mouse and keyboard.  Until these skills are mastered, it’s pointless for you and frustrating for them to try to teach anything else.

Focus on one thing at a time.  When you’re in front of a screen, it’s easy to get distracted.  It’s also easy to move from what you’re talking about into something completely different.  If you’re trying to teach your grandparents how to open a web browser and use the search bar, showing them how you check on your fantasy football league will be overwhelming.

Keep it simple.  This means making the apps and programs Grandma and Grandpa will be using easy to find and hiding what they won’t be using.  Chances are they won’t be using many of the preloaded apps or programs that came with their device, so deleting or hiding the shortcuts from their desktop and creating shortcuts to the things they will use will make sitting in front of the computer less intimidating.  The same applies to a smartphone or tablet.  Make the apps they will use easy to find; hide or delete everything else.

Listen to them.  If Grandma knows how to reasonably navigate the internet, send and read email, and use text messaging, but she’s afraid of social media, ask why.  Maybe she doesn’t understand how it works, or maybe she is afraid of losing her privacy.  Showing her how to follow her grandchildren, view their updates and pictures, while letting her know that she doesn’t have to post anything personal may be just what she needs to hear.