Technology is an indispensable tool for millions of people, but it can still intimidate those who didn’t grow up with computers or gadgets. We tend to think of technological literacy as teaching grandma how to text or use video chat, but technological illiteracy is a problem that can affect different generations who either weren’t exposed to technology at a young age or weren’t given the same opportunities to learn about technology at school or work.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & Regular podcast as we talk about tech illiteracy and ways to help someone in your life get more comfortable with technology.
If you’re reading this article on a computer, phone or tablet, chances are good you already have at least some comfort using technology. If you listen to our podcast, it’s also probably a safe bet to say that you use technology to manage and grow your finances, and you have at least a passing knowledge of terms like crypto, non-fungible financial tokens (NFTs), index funds, and brokerage accounts.
Although many of us take for granted the technology that we use in our day-to-day lives, it’s important to remember that there was once a time when we didn’t know how to use a smartphone.
If a friend or family member asks you for help with technology, remember the following:
Asking for help and admitting you don’t know something is uncomfortable, especially if that person is used to being in control and providing guidance for others. Switching roles can be challenging and lead to feelings of embarrassment, irrelevance or incompetency.
Although we often think of older people needing the most help with technology, it’s also true that there are people who grew up without the same advantages and access that others had. Try to remember that someone asking for help shouldn’t be made the butt of a joke, but instead applauded for stepping out of their comfort zone.
Do your best to approach your relative or friend with empathy to help minimize any discomfort or fear they may have. Try to keep a neutral tone of voice and use direct and clear vocabulary instead of slang or abbreviations.
Although you obviously shouldn’t be disparaging, try to avoid being overly positive, as that can be interpreted as condescending.
Practice at their speed.
Adult learning, especially for older people who might be dealing with cognitive decline, can mean that words and actions don’t synthesize as quickly as they do when we’re young. Remember that everyone learns at their own speed, so be patient and ready to repeat instructions multiple times or remind them of a helpful tip.
Work with your parents or grandparents to help them remember the steps, and consider writing down a step-by-step instruction sheet or creating a short video for them to reference if they need to.
Games can be a great way to help them get comfortable using a smartphone while also helping to keep them entertained and engaged. If they’re worried about cognitive decline or memory issues, consider using a program like AARP’s Staying Sharp that offers memory games and information on brain health.
Don’t forget web safety.
Don’t forget to caution your loved one about the dangers and pitfalls of using technology. A new world can open up from a single device, but as many of us have learned the hard way, there are real dangers involved in using the internet.
Advise your relative of some of the typical schemes that exist and that scammers and hackers have very sophisticated ways of getting information or money from unsuspecting people.
Spend some time reviewing the elder fraud section of the FBI’s website and go through the various ways scammers may approach them and what they should do if they think they’re being targeted. Help them remember that when in doubt, don’t click a link or provide any information, even if it seems innocuous. Remind them to never give anyone money or banking information unless they have verified face to face that they know the person requesting it.
Your loved one should feel confident using the internet and technology, but they must also learn about the threats that come with it.
Helping a friend or family member gain confidence with technology can open a whole new world to them. Remember that it’s important to introduce concepts gradually and at a pace that works for the person learning. Help your friends and family create a safe place for people in your circle who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with technology. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn and grow, and you can play a crucial role.