How to support your parents to start using technology

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This article is for the older children out there, like us. It’s easy to dismiss parents as not wanting or benefitting from using technology or an iPad. It can be a little frustrating at times and our nature can be to fix technology related problems without giving our parents and grandparents the tools to use it independently.

It’s time you rethink this. We’ve had hundreds of people come to our Tea and Technology events because they want to learn more.

We often hear that it’s our generation who are not very patient when it comes to helping Mum or Dad with technology. Think about when you learnt to tie your shoelaces or ride a bike and how patient they were in teaching us. It is something you take for granted now and you probably think of it as a reasonably simple task. But part of learning is that you tried and failed several times until you could do it on your own.

The same can be said about driving a car, cooking a meal, kicking a ball or playing a musical instrument. All these things appear daunting at first but they take patience and time to learn. Once you overcome the initial lack of skills or knowledge, the confidence grows and you do it independently.

Now, think about a smart device and how daunting it is to someone who is just being introduced to it. It’s an expensive piece of equipment that is unfamiliar.

Here are three simple hints to keep in mind.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. Sounds easy but the reality is that we often don’t. Think about how daunting it may be or how much they don’t potentially know at the start of the journey. Think about the assumed knowledge. For example when we said to someone to push a button on an iPad they responded with “that’s glass, where’s the button?”. For the longest time the concept of a button has been a physical surface that you either switched (like a light switch) or pressed on. Modern devices have changed this.

  2. Aim to be a Coach. The habit for a lot of children and grandchildren is to just take over and press the buttons. The problem with this approach is that it removes a fundamental part of successful learning. This is the act of actually doing it yourself and practicing. We suggest you change your mindset and think of yourself as a Coach as well as the Fixer. The time together is to help the person learn so that they can feel a little more confident to do it on their own when you may not be available. You may have to fix some things, but explain what it is so it becomes a little more familiar.

  3. Think ahead to an independent future. This is more about a practical tip. Set up the device in the beginning so your parent or grandparent will have their own profile. We have so many attendees that come along to our events who say that their children or grandchildren look after the technology but they are too busy now or unavailable. Why invest in a piece of equipment like an iPad and then stop access to the App Store. The App Store may have your email address, but they can’t download an app because they don’t know Apple ID or the associated password. We understand the security concerns which is why it’s even more important to support the learning along the way to lead up to an independent technology future.

The reward is amazing when you see the results. When your mum or dad starts checking the phone on their own, using an app on their own or sending you a photo, take a moment to enjoy their participation in the daunting digital world. It truly is rewarding to see the practical results and the difference it makes. Take a look at our 7 useful iPhone and iPad tips for Seniors and Carers for tips that can help.

Please share any positive stories or approaches you may have with supporting your parents or grandparents using technology.