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3 Tips for Getting Your Parents Online

Author: Nancy Allegrezza

For many boomers like myself who use a computer on a daily basis, this form of communication is second nature. My siblings and I keep in touch through Facebook, email, and Skype, helping to bridge the geographical distance that is our family reality.  But for many reasons, Mom and Dad were not participating in our digital communication.  Computers had never been a part of their daily life -it was not a necessity and the thought of learning to use one was intimidating. 

Sadly, after the death of one of my sisters, the desire to get my parents online became more urgent.  More than ever, it was so important to be able to see each other face to face, share our family photos, and just know what was going on in each others lives, even when we lived 1,000 miles apart.

Senior Parents at Telikin ComputerMany boomers hear their parents say, Why do I need a computer? I did fine all of those years without one. Theres nothing that a computer can do for me. These kinds of attitudes can make it more challenging (but certainly not impossible!) to get your parents online. For me, the experience of getting my parents online began when my siblings and I bought them a Telikin as a gift.  Here are a few pointers to help you help your parents get comfortable with computing.

1) Encouragement

The most important thing is to encourage your parents.  Any new skill takes time to learn and computing is no different.  With my parents, I started showing them what they wanted to learn most, which was video chat.  Having face to face visits with different family members was truly wonderful!  I would often ask my parents if they were making video calls or sending emails. Each time I did so, it gently reminded them about this new piece of technology they had.

2) Move gradually

By first teaching my parents what they wanted to learn most, video chat, they realized how a computer could help to do something that was important to them, seeing family members who lived far away. This method provides a context for new users as to why they should continue learning about the computer. Trying to overwhelm them with every new amazing feature might only lead to frustration. As they gain confidence, they will be more willing to learn other features. After video chat, my dad explored games, the internet, and then even Facebook.

 3) Support

No one wants to be left with a piece of technology that simply collects dusts on the living room table. Assuring your parents that you (or someone else you trust) will be there to answer their questions so that they can actually use the computer will give them the peace of mind to take the plunge. By being my parents Tech Buddy, which is Telikin's remote access program for trusted family members or friends to assist users, I was able to remote into their Telikin and see their screen, so that I could understand their questions and teach them new things.  Our customer support team often uses remote access to teach customers about their computer. From the hundreds of conversations these team members have each day with customers, we know that these users are willing to learn about their computer if someone is willing to teach them.

Its incredibly exciting that now my parents video chat with me about 3 times each week, and also enjoy photos, play games (including Facebook games), and surf the web!  Getting my parents online has truly changed the way our family communicates.   I would love to hear your stories of how you have helped your loved ones get connected! Leave a comment below to share your story.