Tech Help For Grandparents

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Where to Turn for Tech Help

grandmother gets computer lesson from grandchildren
A lesson from grandchildren is one of the best ways to gain technological skills. Kidstock | Getty Images

One of the best ways to learn technology is from children or grandchildren. It's always good to hang out and bond, and you'll probably learn a lot, too. Often the problem is that they can't find time in their busy schedules to share what they know. For that reason, I've rounded up a number of sources that are available at almost any time. But don't let that keep you from scheduling a hangout -- real or virtual — with family members, too. 

Where to Look First

I'll begin with some general advice. As much as I love books, they may not be the best way to learn technological skills, for two reasons. First, they are swiftly outdated as technology proceeds apace. Second, they are seldom geared to your particular equipment, needs and comprehension level. I do make an exception for user manuals that come with your devices and programs, although more and more often these don't come in the form of actual books.

Online is the way to go for most of your tech help needs. If you are working with a program or device and have problems, first consult help for that particular program or device. Sometimes you'll be able to live chat with a support person. If you can't find the answer using these strategies, try posting in a forum or sending an email.

Search Is Your Friend

If you still can't find what you need, Google it. Be as specific as possible in your query, and you will be surprised at how much helpful advice you will uncover. Of course, if your device won't boot up or isn't connecting to the Internet, that helpful advice will be inaccessible. That's why I think it's a good idea to have two Internet-enabled devices. Use one device to search for the solution for your other device. 

Your Phone May Be Your Friend

Of course, there's always the much-maligned phone tech support. Actually, there's not always that option. More and more companies are declining to publish their phone numbers and are not providing phone help. But if phone help is available, it can be either a godsend or an ordeal akin to trial by fire. It just depends. Also, phone tech support is seldom fast. You are likely to be on hold for a while. Once you get through, be prepared to spend quite a lot of time on the preliminaries before you get to the heart of the matter. 

But I don't mean to be a downer. Only once or twice have I had a tech problem for which I needed actual hands on my machine, other than my own. So let's proceed by talking about some of the specific areas where grandparents feel they need help. 

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Edit and Manage Photographs and Videos

grandfather and grandson taking selfie with smart phone
Grandparents may have mastered the art of taking digital photographs but need help editing and organizing them. Westend6d1 | Getty Images

We're grandparents. Of course we love photographs, especially photographs of grandchildren. But the days of dropping off film to be processed are long gone, and sometimes we miss them. When I surveyed grandparents about what tech skills they most needed help with, around 40 percent mentioned working with photographs. 

The most desired skill was photo editing, and many of those I surveyed mentioned Adobe Photoshop. That's a great program, but not for the faint of heart. Actually, it's simply more sophisticated than most grandparents need. It's what techies call a pixel-level editing program, which is great for professionals and dedicated hobbyists. The rest of us should start with a simpler program. 

Photo Editing Programs

Do you love freebies? I know I do, and there are some perfectly good free photo editing programs.

Did you know that you can use many free photo editing programs online? Not only do you not have to buy, you don't even have to download!

Many photo editing programs can also be used for organizing photos, but there are other programs designed specifically for this purpose. Some have editing capabilities, too.

And Add Some Video

The second area that interested grandparents was video. Many of those surveyed said they wanted to learn to make, edit and post video. Full disclosure: I don't do videos. But I did some research. Windows Movie Maker is a free movie maker that comes on many computers. I just checked, and it's on mine! Maybe I am a video person.

Moving right along, once you get those photos and videos edited, you'll want to post them, which leads us into programs and apps that grandparents want to learn. (Next slide, please!)

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Programs and Apps Grandparents Want to Learn

grandparents enjoy a video chat
Video chatting with distant grandchildren is one great use of technology. Image Source | Getty Images

Many grandparents want to learn new programs and apps but find them difficult to use. There are a number of reasons why this is so:

  • Older adults may have more fears about technology. They fear clicking the wrong thing, deleting something vital and accidentally sharing private information. In contrast, most children aren't afraid to play with technology. They learn by doing. 
  • When we let fear keep us from learning one task, we are blocking our own progress. The more we use technology, the easier it gets, as certain patterns are repeated. 
  • Sometimes it isn't our fault. Some programs and apps are poorly designed or provide inadequate user support, especially in this era when everyone's a programmer.

With that in mind, let us boldly go where so many have already gone.

From Facebook to Instagram

Sadly, as soon as most grandparents joined Facebook, our grandchildren began to switch. (Was there a cause-effect relationship there? I'm not sure.)

Many of those who left Facebook went to Instagram. That program tops the list of apps grandparents want to learn.

Try Some Chatware

What's better than video chatting with a grandchild? Almost nothing! Here's how:

Photo Booking

Many grandparents said they would like to learn to make photo books and photo cards. Time's a-wasting!

Onward and Upward

Some of the grandparents I surveyed were interested in more complex skills, such as working with Excel or other spreadsheets, programming and coding, learning to repair computers and working with music. For these more complex skills, I recommend taking a class, either online or at a local college or community center. That's not to say that there's not a lot of online information in these areas. There is. But the sheer volume of information plus the complexity of the subject make it advisable for most grandparents to find more personal instruction.

Whichever path you choose to take, keep on learning!