My daughter is stuck at home tonight with two parents who are not only technically challenged, but who also just switched from Androids to iPhones. She has had an iPhone for a year now. The conversation sounds a bit like this:
“Why is there no back button? My Android had a back button.”
“How do I sync my email?”
“Just a minute, I’m helping mom make the screen letters bigger.”
“You’ve been helping her for a half hour, it’s my turn. Where the heck is the internet?”
“It’s called Safari”
“Leave her alone she’s helping me”
“SAFARI? That’s stupid.”
For the first twenty minutes, she seems somewhat pleased that WE, the parents, are so dependent upon her to perform even the most basic of functions on our new smart phones. But as the night wears on, she becomes less amused at our ignorance.
“Where’s my contacts list? Why isn’t it right down here at the bottom like my other phone?”
“DAD, I’ve told you four times how to get to your contacts list! It hasn’t changed since that last time five minutes ago!”
“How do I get my songs on here from iTunes?”
“I want to turn my picture into a zombie like you did the other day. What was that app called?’
“Why does it keep saying that I need an Apple ID? That’s stupid!”
Unfortunately, all across the globe, scenarios like this are being played out in living rooms, night after night.
Like my wife and I, many parents our age did not grow up in a digital, computer dependent world full of smart phones, email addresses, and WIFI. These are all things we have had to learn and to adapt too. At times, our analog, pencil and paper geared minds can get overloaded. A new smart phone can be horrifying as opposed to the excitement my daughters would feel. I just barely learned how to operate all the functions on my old phone, and now you want me to throw it all out and start from scratch?
In our day, if you learned how to use the U.S. Postal Service, you could reasonably expect that the skill would carry you through the rest of your life without needing to alter how you use the Mail system’s OS (operating system, I just learned that one from my daughter). If you learned how to look up a number in the phone book and dial the telephone that hung on the wall, you were pretty much set. But then all this new stuff comes along and ruins everything.
Kids nowadays were born into this cyber world, and their brains are trained to think that way from day one. They adapt to changes in technology and operating systems so much faster than I can.
Gone are the days when a father could proudly teach his son or daughter the simple life skills they needed to be able to interact with the world around them. Most of the technical learning that goes on in our household is daughter teaching parent.
We recently switched from cable TV to satellite TV. This change required that I learn a whole new OS. This change was a creator of much stress for me. I felt like a turtle on my back. I couldn’t make a TV show even appear on the screen, let alone one I wanted to watch.
But I have learned to cope with my technological disabilities, and overcome them. When the new satellite box was fired up for the first time and I had spent the ten minutes required to determine that I had no idea how to operate it, I simply handed the remote to my daughter Hannah and left the room. This is known as step one.
After an hour I returned, and just as I suspected, she had mastered the system. She could perform any and every function available. In fact, she had already set up her own channel favorites list and had set the DVR that came with it to record her shows.
Step two is to have Hannah simply show me how to turn the channel box on and off.
Step three is an on-going step. Step three is to use Hannah like a voice controlled remote for the next month or two as I slowly learn each satellite TV skill one at a time.
“Hannah, make it go to The Discovery Channel.”
“Hannah, make it record Wildest Police Video episodes.”
“Hannah, make Netflix come up on the screen.”
This system has helped to eliminate much of the anxiety and fear that can be the result of trying to learn a new technology or OS. I’d like to think that over time, my ability to adapt to such changes would become easier and easier. But I’m beginning to realize that all the gains I make as far as becoming fluent in the computer-digital-cyber world, are being countered by my memory becoming duller, and perhaps a touch of senility setting in.