What better way for students to express their love to their older family members than to give the gift of digital technology lessons?
The joy of gift giving is often lost on college students, and understandably so. They are typically coming home after a rough and crazy busy semester, not only spent mentally and physically, but spent financially too.
They might love to shower their parents and grandparents with presents, but few have much money for expensive gifts that adequately express their love. Plus, they typically don’t have much time to shop either.
What many students don’t realize is that they have the power to give their elders a gift that is both priceless and free—in the form of their digital-native skills.
Let’s face it, mom, dad, grandpa and grandma may be “on” Facebook, but do they really know how to get the most out of this popular form of social media?
Are they able to use the web to check on their financial portfolio, plan a trip, buy airline tickets or search for information they are interested in without having to go to the local library (though some rightfully enjoy the trip)?
How often do they use Facetime or Skype to visit with their kids or grandkids?
Almost intuitively, students in college know all these things very well. It is second nature to them. This is generally not true for their parents and grandparents however. While it has always been true that generational divides have separated the young from the old, the remarkable fast pace of technology in recent years has made this divide much more dramatic.
Think about it. Smart phones and the internet are very recent inventions. Companies like Facebook, Skype, and Google didn’t exist a few years ago. What better way to express their love to their older family members than to give the gift of digital technology lessons?
Computer companies, in my opinion, don’t do a good enough job of educating older folks on the way digital devices work or how to use the many embedded applications that could improve their lives. Plus, when questions arise, how can you get them answered? Tech savvy companies and engineers often forget how low tech so many adults still are. They assume that most people are technophilic while so many are actually technophobic. And technophobics are often too embarrassed to ask questions for fear that they’ll appear stupid.
Such a gift not only would be greatly appreciated and heavily used, but it is also a potentially wonderful bridge across the generations. I’ll bet if you asked grandma what she would like most for the holidays, she’d say more quality time with her family, especially the young ones. Young people spending time with their elder relatives in an educative and loving way that helps them get the most from their computer or smart phone could be just what Santa ordered this time of year.
Students should take care to present this gift with respect, love, and compassion. Digital immigrants often get very anxious about learning technology; it almost seems like learning a new language to them. And research in cognitive science clearly shows that when you’re anxious, you really don’t learn new information very well at all.
One lesson will probably not be enough. In fact, it could be overwhelming and frustrating. Students should walk their elders through a process a few times, then follow up periodically to see how they are doing with it and answer their questions. Keeping it simple and straightforward is important too.
Young digital natives helping elder digital immigrants in a respectful, loving, and compassionate manner during the holidays might be the ideal –and free– gift this holiday season.
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