So you want to get your parent online?

This article focuses on some of the important issues you need to consider, if you are going to encourage your parent/other relative to get online.  Especially if they are elderly.
As children (even at the age of 50) ,sometimes we think as them a super beings and believe the can tackle most things. Which is absolutely lovely, but the wrong position to assume when introducing them to the Internet and technology devices.  There are many benefits that older people can gain from being online, and I would urge people to keep encouraging someone of this age group just to give it a try.  However, after tutoring in this area for some time.  There are certain factors that children need to consider before going ahead and getting their parents online.

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Support – Technology can provide a real sense of independence for older users once they have learnt a few basic skills. But they need to get to that stage first. In the beginning your parent may need someone in the family to turn to help with the device.  We all have a different pace of being able to learn something new. And what might take a few days for you, could take a couple of weeks for someone else. Even if your parent goes  to local computing sessions or has a volunteer come in to help them. There will be times they need someone to practice with, or motive them to do so.  Can you or another relative help out?
  • The Device 1– Don’t assume just getting a tablet will be the right solution.  Although it is fair to say tablets are one of the better devices to use and access services online.  Discuss this with your parent  and look at different devices before you buy.  Make sure the salesperson allows your parent to try  using a tablet, mouse, or laptop, or smartphone if they want something that small.  Remember your parent will be using it all the time, so they need to feel comfortable with what they use.  And it will help considerably  when it comes to learning new technology skills.
  • The Device 2 – With most devices, they require you to set up an account when you first use them and also an email account, to confirm the purchase of apps and software.  This in turn sets off the need to have passwords for these accounts.  You need to consider whether you parent will be able to cope with understanding and managing these.  If not can you or someone else in the family manage it for them Many older learners who seek out places to have technology lessons, or receive tuition from a volunteers have had their devices set up for them by a son, daughter and other relative.  Not knowing the importance of the username and password.   Involve your parent with this information from very beginning if you can, or on the side of caution if they want to purchase apps or have a problem with the device, get them to contact you, or another relative who can help out.
  • The Internet – First of all make sure the device your parent is using has some anti-virus protection on it.  Yes this does include Apple products because attacks on these are increasing. It’s quiet easy in the beginning stages to stumble on to a website that contains something malicious.  Secondly, if you are the designated helper in the family, with your parent getting online.  You really need to make sure you are aware of the different ways that online fraud can occur.  It may take sometime for your parent to understand some of the underhanded methods and lengths that people will go to, to deceive.  So they really need to be watched over for a while.  This means carrying out online transactions for them, until you are absolutely sure they can do this safely and confidentially.
For some of you reading this it may come as a surprise as to how much time you need to help your parent get online.  Particularly if you have a busy and technology filled life yourself.   A lot of the skills building and Internet knowledge can be gained by your parent in local classes at further education colleges.  Or if they would rather learn with people more their age, a local Age UK group may run some sessions.  Alternatively, if they don’t want to learn in a group, There are many community groups or organisations such as AbilityNet who run a volunteer service where they can be helped in their own homes.
If you would like to receive any further advice about getting your parent online please contact me.

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