Don't be snobbish! Teach your folks the latest tech

  • Sonal Kalra, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 22, 2015 19:11 IST
Teach technology to your parents with patience and discover true joy. (Shutterstock Photo)

Hiyee all you lovely people. Please pat me on the back, I’ve finally got back into the groove and trying to be regular with writing the column every week. I did try to fool you by re-running some old articles of late, but aap pakad hi lete ho. Aur phir itni gaaliyan padti hain through umpteen mails for being so utterly lazy. Anyway, today’s topic is not as serious as the past couple of weeks, but is still something that I’m pretty emotional about.

I got the idea to write about it when I observed a young guy in the office cafeteria yelling at his mom because she had made the mistake of calling him to ask how to send an audio message through Whatsapp. ‘Mom, you don’t need to try and be all savvy. Aapko samajh toh aayega nahi. Just leave it and make a normal call’, he said, after trying to teach her the commands once, and realising that she’s not getting it. I don’t know what his mom replied at the other end, but I didn’t like what he said. Also, the tone in which he said it. But it did make me realise and feel guilty about the several times that even I may have lost patience while helping my parents understand new technologies that keep hitting us every day. Until one day, when a younger cousin rolled his eyes at me when I asked him about an app that I was unfamiliar with.

I hated him acting all know-it-all and condescending, but that’s what I was subconsciously doing each time I told my own mom that she shouldn’t bother with Twitter or Facebook because she is past the age to do so. It may have caused her stress. But like most moms, she just smiled and said I was right. So here’s the thing — if you are, intentionally or unintentionally, fuelling insecurity and lack of confidence in an elderly person about use of new technologies, you are not doing yourself a favour, because you’ll soon reach that stage yourself. Read on...

* Times change, so do technologies

It was not long ago that Orkut became Facebook and BBM became Whatsapp. So it’s not gonna be long when these two also become obsolete or die down. The same goes for the operating systems of the various phones and gadgets we use. The fact that most of you so easily adapt to a new platform or gadget is not because you are some undiscovered Einstein.

It’s because these technologies come with a lot of investment gone into making the user-interface of these gadgets friendly or easy to use. And because you are constantly, almost 24X7, using these gadgets. But unlike most of you, people who did not have these gadgets in their hands as constant fixtures have to start from the scratch. Hence, they find it tough and intimidating, and often struggle with the basics. And you’ve got to respect that.

It’s like when they were teaching you ABC. Did they shout at you because you couldn’t fluently frame sentences while you were still learning the alphabet? So, now that the roles stand reversed and you get to be the teacher, you better treat them with the same love and patience that they showed for you.

* Rewarding, it is!

For those of you who have never experienced the joy of seeing an old person discover the magic of internet, I recommend Ganga snaan and immediate penance. Trust me, it is the most beautiful thing when the eyes of your grandparents light up on discovering that they can message their friends or relatives anywhere in the world and get instant response, for free. They may take ages to type out a coherent sentence, but the moment they click ‘send’, their excitement is the biggest joy you can experience.

They may make a lot of mistakes initially, and you may get frustrated or embarrassed. But it’s all worthwhile in the end. I still remember my mom’s first Whatsapp message to me after I taught her the usage, and how she addressed me as ‘Carl Lewis’. Till date, I don’t know what she had typed that got auto-corrected to that name. But I still have that message preserved, because for me, that leap into new technology that my mom took would remain cherished forever. Remember, holding a smartphone into your hand doesn’t make you smart. Being able to give back to someone who patiently taught you everything you know in life does.

* Empowering elders empowers you

Yes, I know you have a hectic life. You barely get time to spend with your own kids, and teaching technology to parents or grandparents doesn’t seem like a priority. But believe me, the little effort of spending an hour every week in making your elders proficient in technology goes a long way in making your own life much easier and enriched.

While for them, being on social media brings up a new universe to explore joyfully, it also opens several new avenues for you to communicate with your ageing parents. A lot of my friends who were too busy to call their mom or dad often have now taken to regularly chatting with them on Whatsapp. Although I’m quite old school and would never agree that chatting or talking on the phone is a sufficient replacement for spending actual, physical time with your elders, it’s still better than not being in touch for days together.

Right? So promise me — no more making faces, rolling eyes or being all sarcastic about an elder person struggling with the basics of technology. You may know the software more, but they’ve seen the world more. There’s no comparison.

Sonal Kalra has decided to change her name to Carl Lewis. What’s a name in front of the love for mom. Mail her at or Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.

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