Can you imagine being born into a world before television existed or having a car wasn't common for the average family? And then living to experience all the technological advancements the modern digital world affords? Seventy years is not a big segment of time, historically speaking, and yet many seniors — like my own Grandmother — have lived across these two parallels. Contrast that with people born in the last two decades, and this is the only world they know. As these two demographics "come to age" in our tech-savvy world, I find myself being the cheese in a generational sandwich, now tasked with teaching web and tech safety to both my tween son, and my senior Grandmother.
For my Gramma, this can seem like the Brave New World her generation was warned about. It's important not to speak down to someone learning tech, no matter their age, no matter how frustrating it can become (and it can be frustrating at times). Any time I explain what "this button does" for what seems like the 314th time, I keep this in mind: My Grandparents lied about their ages to willingly join a war effort focused on saving the world and securing freedom.
I have an app on my phone that gets fried chicken delivered to my doorstep.
My tween has an iPad and iPod, so texting rules are discussed often in our household. Being short on time and having two people to school in tech, I streamlined my approach and did the safety talk together. And really, you haven't lived until you've delivered the "no one wants to see dick picks" line to your grandmother. But it's important and it needed to be said. Also covered - no filming anyone without their expressed permission.
Let's just say that doing a browser search for "Golden Girls" doesn't always deliver video of our favourite gang of Miami-based retirees. Let's also say that talking porn with your Gramma is even less fun than a root canal from the new kid at dental college. I set safety searches on our browser at home for my son, but I also showed my grandmother how to do it should she want to save herself from certain images. (I've been checking her search history for kicks but so far it's all Matlock queries and apple recipes.)
My Grandmother isn't a wanderer, although she does try to get away from us sometimes, but I think that's more a "get me away from these people" than a medical issue. But at any rate, with her cell phone, we feel good knowing she can call us (or anyone, including emergency services) for help.
Fingerprint recognition technology is great for her, and she can access phone functionality quickly when she's in a hurry. And for my tween, it means one less password to remember in his world of everything requiring four digits, one capital letter, and a symbol. And speaking of passwords - both my Gramma and my tween are under strict orders to tell no one but me, their codes.
This is not meant at all to be derogatory commentary, nor a treatise on her intellect. My grandmother is incredibly intelligent with a knife-sharp wit and logical reasoning. She joined the Royal Air Force during WWII and chose that branch of the military specifically for this reason: "They let the girls wear pants." See? Ahead of her time. And yet, she is of the generation where even pants on women was unconventional. Teaching her to use a tablet was going to require all my patience. If I am not up to the task (and I know my limits), I will tell her to get on board with TELUS WISE Seniors, a free program for seniors who are online but still learning to navigate their wired world and let her know that she can even book a spot for an upcoming TELUS WISE Senior's workshop. My liver and my Gramma thank you, TELUS. And at the same time, I have a tween son entering the "tech" portion of his evolution. Could I teach the same basic premises to two completely different audiences?
My pants-wearing, hammer-wielding, now-tech-savvy Gramma
I charged my phone, fired up the laptop, and poured myself a double. Here we go:
First up was how keeping personal info private and secure in online interactions is critical, no matter how old you are or how tech savvy, your info can still be stolen. So while I'm tasked with teaching two completely different demographics, the same principles apply: Tween gets warned because his physical protection is my main priority, while I attempt to keep my Gramma safe from "we need your bank info "shysters. The only readily available financial currency my young son has at risk are Pokemon trading cards, whereas my elderly Grandmother could wind up putting my inheritance at risk. (And let me tell you, after explaining online porn to a 92 year-old, I have earned every penny.)
For my tween, the advice was simple: Don't.
It was a bit more complicated when it came to the older portion of my "class." My Gramma is definitely single, or else we made a horrible mistake in a church yard a decade ago. In the case that she is ever looking to "mingle," I offer the same advice for online dating as I do for online shopping: Do it sober, and do not use a credit card offhandedly. I have a tortilla press, 14 shower curtains, and a mini trampoline to punctuate the importance of this point. Any online interaction requiring a credit card should be verified and reliable, as should potential dates.
If and when my tween joins social media platforms, he will be told to mark his accounts as private and he must follow me. If and when my Gramma chooses to participate in social media, I will also show her how to set her accounts to reasonable privacy settings. She will also be informed, in no uncertain terms, to never post anything that asks me "how my bladder infection is coming along."
For both tween and senior participants of "Jeni Teaches Tech and Also Drinks Vodka Day," all attendees also learned about never posting harmful or potentially slanderous statuses, being kind, and not clicking suspicious links.
I wrapped up my lesson with advice that really anyone, in any setting, regardless of age, ability, or online capability: Think first, ask for help when you need it, and never, under any circumstances do a Google image search for "Golden Girls" without using safety setting filters.