In a recent post, I addressed the problem of tech addiction in our children and grandchildren. I offered some tips for grandparents to help their children and grandchildren manage the ever-changing digital landscape. But I also believe that when it comes to technology, the new mantra for grandparents should be: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
If we want to be a part of our grandchildren’s lives, we have to learn technology, use the apps (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Facetime) our grandchildren are using, and ask them to show us the things they love about technology.
When your kids drop off the grandchildren for the weekend and they walk in carrying their mobile devices, and you have no idea what they’re looking at or listening to, you may feel a little clueless on how to get their attention. It’s time to look at being a tech-savvy granny or grandpa so you can engage with your technology-obsessed grandkids online and off. You may have already realized that trying to take the device away doesn’t work when it comes to trying to relate at their level. So it’s important to keep in mind the “bridge” in crossing your digital divide and you don’t want to burn that bridge.
One of my GaGa Sisterhood members has four grandsons and wants nothing more than to be a big part of the boys’ lives. But to do that, she’s had to constantly reinvent herself, learning a new app or the latest social media craze.
She’s also become a texting whiz because her 16-year-old grandson will only text her. She’s learned the ins and outs of Minecraft (a land the 12-year-old disappears into) and she’s gotten her own tablet to keep up with the littlest ones.
Our grandchildren can be wonderful teachers for learning the apps they’re using. In addition, two excellent resources for educating yourself in technology are AARP Tek and Grandparents Academy. Both of these resources offer a wide variety of webinars and free downloadable books on ways to connect with your grandkids.
Tips to Engage with Tech-savvy Grandkids
Here are five tips from radio KPCC to help grandparents engage with tech-savvy grandkids:
1. From UCLA Professor, Patricia Greenfield: Embrace technology. As scary as it might feel, ignoring it, banning it or rubbishing it is not going to endear you to your grandchildren. Find apps, games or social media sites that you can engage in together. She suggests “Scramble,” an iOS app that is like the game Boggle.
2. From Reveta Bowers, Director of the Center for Early Education: Learn the wonders of Google and search engines on an iPad or tablet. Then try asking your grandchild what they have always wanted to know about (Fairies? Electric cars? How a rainbow forms?) and embark on an on-line research project together. Your grandchild can navigate the device, and you can help pose questions to verify authenticity of material that Google provides. The bonus is you’ll be teaching media literacy skills as you bond.
3. From Commonsense media: Educate yourself on the best apps for your grandkids. The group’s slogan is “Not All Apps Are Created Equal.” Commonsense Media has published independent reviews of more than 2,000 apps for kids based on age appropriateness and learning potential.
4. From Sandy Pressman, Grandmother of seven: Ask for help! Have your grandchild be your first technical assistance go-to person. They will often enjoy teaching you, and you can avoid getting frustrated and giving up. At the cost of an ice cream cone or oatmeal cookie, they’re a lot cheaper than professionals, too.
5. From Leslie Zinberg, Grandmother and co-founder of Grandparentslink: Don’t get sucked into expensive monthly subscription apps. It may seem like a low monthly fee, but do the math and calculate if the purchase will be worth it one year from now.
Now that my oldest granddaughter is 13 I’ve had to up my tech game. She set up a personal Instagram account for me so I can see all the photos she posts on her page. And even though we live two hours apart, we talk on the phone several times a week. I always have my iPhone handy so if she starts talking about a new musician she’s discovered, I can check it out while we’re talking. It’s these little connections that can help us stay close to our tech-savvy grandkids.