"Did you save the receipt for it?" Mom asked on Christmas morning as I presented her with her shiny new iPad. I have to admit my feelings were a little hurt, but that was just her discomfort with the internet talking. I knew I was about to embark on a Mom's First iPad Teaching Elders Technology course.
My mom panics about purchasing anything online. "I don't want them to have all my information!" she exclaims, referencing the info-stealing goblins inside a computer that whisper to Satan whenever someone inputs their personal information, such as credit card numbers and mailing addresses.
She finally sat down with me after breakfast to set up her iPad login info, which included a finger touch sign-in. Over the next 75 minutes of her panic attacks, I had to explain over and over that no one would have access to her fingerprints or login information. As a 32-year-old man, I can honestly say that I think giving birth to a triceratops would have been easier than helping my Mother set up her iPad.
After Christmas dinner, I gave her a senior citizen crash course in YouTube. "Where's the period?" "What's a ‘com’?" I was at the end of my rapidly fraying rope, and remembered praying that the iPad would ship before Christmas, then carrying it on Amtrak to Philly from New York the day before Christmas Eve along with everyone else's Christmas gifts. The brand new iPad also only cost me $15 with my Sprint account! Lady, you're gonna learn today!
My 22-year-old sister swooped in and saved the day and I realized how foreign the concept of high tech computer nonsense was to my mom. Abilities that I had taken for granted were brand new concepts to her. My sister's reassuring and calm approach was much more effective than my barking at my 59-year-old mother, who also just got her first cellphone earlier that year.
Observing the drastic difference between my sister's parent-tech teaching approach and mine, here are five tips I learned and wish to share with all of the millennials out there down in the trenches, teaching their parents and elders internet 101!
In the teaching process, If you aren’t sure - Google it!
Be honest with yourself about your tech knowledge. If you reach a roadblock during "Parent iPad, Android Smartphone or Computer College," Google it. You can be an example of how to google something to access information, which is helpful in itself. If Mom or Dad is watching, a visual is often stronger than verbal directions. Let them watch you do it first, then let them have a go at it.
Shapes and colors can be a critical and descriptive building block
Shapes and colors are a very important and basic building block regarding the way we learn as children. It's equally as important when we're teaching our parents or elders sitting at a computer to realize they are often seeing these graphic configurations for the first time.
Verbal cues such as "Press the red X on the black screen." "Look for the black cursor in the message field." "Use the white arrow," are more helpful than you might realize.
‘The Mouse Moves the Cursor’ - Explain the simplest cases of ‘Cause and Effect’
When teaching elders technology, t's easy to take for granted things that seem basic and obvious to those of us who use technology every day. We may forget that we're explaining a train of thought that isn't even in a computer newbie’s stream of consciousness. Explain cause and effect. "If you press this button it will do that." "If you click here it will do this."
The 'Fear Factor' is a real thing in any kind of Teaching Elders Technology course
Fear of the unknown is a very real thing. The internet or even a computer can be extremely overwhelming to someone unfamiliar with this type of technology, which can suck all the fun out of setting up Mom's Facebook profile.
It’s better to have an honest talk first about whatever type of product they'll be learning about (smart phone, computer, etc.) and let them ask questions first. “Facebook is a place to say hello to old friends and family, but there are people on there who can be mean-spirited as well as supportive.” It's much more effective to be honest and cite options than thrusting them into a new situation with a sink or swim attitude. Do your best to put their fears to rest in a pre-power up conversation.
Be patient and recognize you may not be the best teaching option
As the great Kenny Rogers says, "you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em!" Know when you've reached the end of your knowledge (and patience) - it might be time to cut your losses and set Grandpop up for those apple one on one classes.
Don't feel like you've failed or that they're hopeless in your impromptu Teaching Elders Technology course. It's ok NOT to have all the answers. Explain to gramps that you're not a professional and that there are people (or angels) with skills and knowledge who could make this process easier, and perhaps more fun.
You can go together and it can be a bonding experience, and you may even learn something new yourself! The internet can in fact be a scary place when Teaching Elders Technology. You wouldn't send your child into the inter-webs without proper training and tools. Why do it to your parents?
For my final point and anecdote, I'd just like to point out that as I was typing this article on my iPhone in the body of an email, I accidentally pressed "send" before I was finished, and sent it off half written, without any spell check or proof reading. I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. HI MOM!!!
I had a feeling that was coming, considering the fight we'd had over my trash compactor and garbage disposal some years earlier after baking brownies. "How do ya use that?" She asked in a panic, as I asked her to compact the brownie mix boxes. I explained very simply in three easy steps how to do it, to which her reply was, "here's the boxes do what you want!" Slamming them down on the kitchen table. "Mom it's a trash compactor, not a seat on a space shuttle" I said. Defending the technology I was so excited for her to try out upon my moving into the two bedroom row home in South Philly that was my first place.
Now that you know the level of "Memorization" that we're dealing with, good luck out there in your Teaching Elders Technology endeavors.
Follow Tony Enos on Twitter at @TonyEnos