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Five top tips for surviving parental tech questions

Posted by Kat Farminer on 27th April 2016

Despite the fact I work in tech, I seem to get off the hook quite lightly when it comes to my family asking me gadget-related questions. My husband however, is the target of questioning at most family get togethers. “I just wanted to ask you a question about my Kindle” or “My ‘Paddy’ (iPad) is doing that thing again where…” are regular occurrences around the dinner table. One of the following then happens:

  1. I instantly get agitated and have to walk away in a huff like I am five years old
  2. My husband stays much calmer and tries to help no matter how long this takes

Having talked to friends, we don’t seem to be alone in this parental education. Most people (I’m happy to say) act like me, reverting to toddler tantrums about being asked to do something that seems so simple to us. So why is it not simple to our mums?

To change my ways, I gave myself a good talking to and came up with some rules to try and follow:

  1. Keep it simple — every day is a school day

Imagine if your parents suddenly asked you to program a VHS or even master change the oil in a car? Most of us would struggle, and yet these are things our folks had to get their heads around in the ‘70s and ‘80s. What seems so simple to us (having grown up in the digital age) seems scary to them. In the same way that we see all the positives, our parents only fixate on the scaremongering of privacy and hacking.

If you bear in mind that every time your mum opens an email she thinks she is going to lose her life savings, you can kind of (kind of!) see where she is coming from. Don’t just get her to hand over the device and sort an issue from afar, take the time to sit and explain. Hopefully then over time when the problem has occurred say 150 times she will know to just delete anything suspicious.

  1. Remember their passwords too

The day it dawned on us to start making a note of our parents’ app and device passwords too was the day parental tech education became ten times easier!

My dad is pretty good at keeping track of his passwords but my mum does not seem to be able to remember a single one. And, because of course it’s good security practice, she wants different ones for each app!

To save having to put in a million password reminder questions for every app (and then not be able to remember the email one to activate any new passwords we set up) we just started to memorise them too.

  1. Laugh instead of cry

When your parents call their ‘iPad’ their ‘Paddy’ or their Kindle their ‘Kondle’ don’t get annoyed. Just see it as the modern-day version of the old-fashioned debate on what to call the remote or the ‘machine’, ‘doofer’, ‘dibber’, ‘clicker’ or, if you come round to mine, the ‘buttons’.

  1. Show them how it can be used for good

Persevere with sending family group texts or WhatsApp messages. Continue to send photos of what you are doing or allow your mum to connect on Find Friends (which might be one step too far) so she can tell if you’re home.

This way they will grow to see the positives of their tech and want to join in the fun.

  1. If all else fails buy different birthday presents!

Generally, our parents have tech gadgets because we buy them as joint Christmas and birthday presents.

If you really are not going to take on the responsibility of helping them use it. Don’t buy it!

Photo credit

Kat Farminer