Introduce your parents to the internet and watch them have fun

oldman_computerAfter several years of avoidance (on the part of both of us), I finally taught my father to use a computer when he was 80 years old. Within a couple of months, he was corresponding with family, friends and colleagues through email, facebook, skype, gtalk and even linkedIn. His online interactions, it seemed, were only limited by the speed of his two-finger typing!

The use of the computer enriched his life and helped him actively participate in all the important things in his life even on days when he could not leave home. And the things he read, discovered and re-discovered through the internet brought out the inquisitive child in him and resulted in many happy and entertaining days for all of us.

If your parents are computer illiterate, I believe they and you are missing out on a great deal in today’s world. With the internet on, the world is truly a much smaller place and even families distributed around the world can rediscover the joys of actively participating in each others’ lives.

I have put together below a series of steps you can take to bring your parents into the internet fold and help them lead a more connected and happier life.  Here goes:

1. Buy a tab for your parents. Install an ebook reader and add some books they would love to read to the tab. Include some games they may like and add a photo album that they can view. Add photos of grandchildren, if any.  A tablet is not as intimidating as a computer and much more intuitive to use and hence a very good place to start.

2. Install skype or google talk or a stable third party video chat app on it and teach them to use that. Seeing you and talking to you (seeing and talking to grand children works even better) will get them hooked on.  This looks like a big step but this is where a huge push is required and only a significant incentive will get them to surmount their anxiety, trepidation, reluctance and inhibitions to learn something new.

3. Introduce them to email. Gmail is ideal. Its fairly easy to use and very difficult to screw up. Making them type “ok” in response to your email is a great way of introduce them to the keyboard.

4. Send them interesting links via email and guide them to follow those links. Youtube videos, family photo albums, sites with quotes of their favourite author, artist, godman are all ideal fare for this purpose.

5. Create a facebook account for them and get them connected to the inner circle of immediate family and close friends. Let them watch the stream for a while and then encourage them to put up status updates. Teach them to connect to more people if they wish.

By now, if they are not itching to turn on the tab first thing in the morning, I will gladly eat one day’s worth of emails.

6. Now get them a computer. A Windows PC is an ideal choice (even if you are a die-hard Apple fan) as there are more people available to troubleshoot a pc environment.

7. Teach them to use google search and browse.

8. Send them interesting sites they can use/join (LinkedIn, Twitter, your blog, StumbleUpon, Squidoo,…)

9. Help them set up their own blog. It could be a photo blog or a wordpress, typepad or say, blogger account.

10. Sit back and enjoy watching your parents discover a new world.

Here’s hoping this article helps at least a few of you to get closer to your parents.


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