Got a New Electronic Device? Now What?

You decided to get your parents or grandparents a new electronic device to help get them into the Technology Age. They accepted the gift with grace, but you know secretly they are saying, “What am I gonna do with this thing?” Here are some ways that you can help them not only adjust but actually embrace technology.


First of all, remember that technology is quite foreign to our elders. They will likely not feel the excitement that you have for a new computer, ipad, smart phone or digital camera. Often times they have a combination of feelings toward electronic devices that are commonplace to you and me. They feel like they are “stupid” when it comes to technology. That is not my word, but the word that too many of my students use every day to describe themselves. Their lack of excitement often stems also from the lack of knowledge about what electronic devices can even do for them. While you may know that easy access of information and social media can be fun and informative, you elder loved ones may not understand that. What they see in front of them is an impossible chore. They do not know the language, and they may have had negative frustrating past experiences.

So how can you help them and create excitement at the same time?

  1. Teach them the language. While words like scroll, click, icon, download, link are common words to those of us who use technology, they are new words or words with new meanings that take time to understand. Ask them if they’ve heard any words that they are wondering about. They’ll probably tell you they’ve heard about downloading or Facebook and feel embarrassed that they don’t know what they mean. Show them what Facebook or email look like so they have a reference. While you’re teaching them, have them write important words down. Ask them to rephrase what you just told them. Learning is a process. It’s not instantaneous, not matter what age we are. It takes time and patience to let things “sink in.”
  2. Have patience. Remember how many times your mom or dad helped you learn to ride a bike, tie your shoes or drive a car? It didn’t happen overnight. If you were fortunate, you had parents who showed great patience in helping you to learn. If not, remember how it felt for you to experience impatience. You can be the patient one. Keep your sense of humor and your calm attention while they are learning. EXPECT that you will need to repeat things several times. Have them write things down (it helps them to remember if THEY write the directions.) Then, remind them to look at their notes.
  3. Let THEM do it. It’s so easy for us to do things for other people. Remember when you first learned to iron or to paint, and mom or dad just kept doing it for you? You wanted to do it yourself. Show them how to click or scroll. Then let them practice. If you’re teaching how to look for something on the internet, find an article from a newspaper and have them look up a topic from the article or perhaps a website that is sited in the story. Ask them how they would go about finding the information. Then guide them as they do it.
  4. Show them how to have fun. If they like games, show them how to play games on the desktop or online. Maybe they really love history—go to a history website. Most of my students really enjoy Youtube. I show them things that they are interested in. For example, recently one of my students was making a multi-ruffle scarf and was perplexed by a knitting stitch. She could picture how to do the stitch with the written directions. I showed her videos on Youtube that showed her how to do the stitch. She reacted as if I’d given her a million dollars! Looking for “How to” videos on Youtube is extremely helpful. This is a site that can also be used to see real footage from historical events or an episode of Dancing with the Stars or The Voice if you’ve missed your favorite show the night before. These are some of the things that your parents and grandparents don’t even know exist. Show them. Let them enjoy their technology.

Lastly, if you have a difficult time teaching your loved ones get some help. There are programs like mine that can help create an excitement for technology to help bring your elder loved ones along. Whether they go to the library, join a group class, enroll in continuing education classes or have private lessons in their home, they can have positive learning experiences that will excite them and help them to embrace technology. You and I know that technology can be so wonderful. Help them to have fun with their new electronic devices.

Happy New Year to you all.