Are you a technology-savvy grandparent?
Several years ago we wondered if we would ever be grandparents.
Now, thanks to our four wonderful adult children and their terrific spouses we have gone from zero to four grandchildren in 18 months. And I think we, er they, are just getting started!
We’ve seen all four grandkids this summer as they visit us at our Maine camp. And seeing them surrounded by the inevitable technology that their parents and we carry has caused me to consider what role my wife Connie and I will play as grandparents.
We are extremely fortunate to live in the same town as our firstborn granddaughter and have delighted in seeing her grow and change nearly everyday since her birth. The bonus of course is that we get to assist with her care during the school year. How lucky we are!
But the other three live some distance from our mid- Maine home—a granddaughter in Minnesota (E) and the twins in Boston (P and R). Another son and wife live in NYC; we expect to hear from them in the next year or two as well, child wise (no pressure, C & L).
What does this have to do with technology?
Staying in touch is important and we’ve used technology regularly to do so. Phone calls, text messages, photos sent through texts, short videos showing the kids doing or saying cute things. We’ve also used various photo sharing apps like Google+ and Flickr to share rapidly increasing photo libraries across our five families and beyond to grandparents and aunts and uncles. Skype, occasionally Google Hangouts, but predominantly FaceTime is our go-to medium for face-to-face connections.
This is the fun part. We are enjoying seeing how our children and their spouses are handling tech issues for their kids. Yes, there are decisions to be made even for newborns! Should we post photos on social media? Should we start an email account now or later? What policy do we want to adopt for relatives and friends who might want to post or re-post a photo of our child? Or make comments about our child online? And, what about screen time both at home and with others?
The reality of it all. Our daughter and son-in-law, parents of our 18-month granddaughter (C), have a strict “no screen” policy for their daughter and they have kept to it. No TV or movies while she is around. And they, like the other couples, have posted on Facebook and other social media only minimally.
It is fascinating, however, to see our granddaughter grab her mother’s smartphone and mimic her mom, even talking with Siri. C presses the home button (she knows how to hold the phone) and pretends to make a call. Or points her father’s car keys at the window as she has seen him do to activate the remote starter. One day I left C for 10 seconds to duck around the corner into the kitchen. When I came back into the living room, C had a remote control in each hand and had turned on the TV!
The point is? Technology is a regular part of everyday life. While boomers sometime separate technology from “life” that is not how it works anymore. Technology is part of life and the generations behind us know this.
Our children and their spouses will instill the values they deem important for their kids. Today, that includes how to use technology safely, productively, and ethically. On a practical level, it also means knowing when not to stare into your screen and when to pay attention to those around you.
As grandparents, we need to be ready to support our grandchildren by being good role models but also by being knowledgeable about technology. Yes, another responsibility of grandparents but an essential one.
Who knows what technology will be for our grandkids even at ages 5 or 6? The smartphones that we have today may be long gone. Will they have wearable technology, say a smartwatch, or a cap, or a lightweight vest that functions as a computer? More importantly, how will they use and respond to this technology?
We don’t have to know how to code or how to make an app or even know how to play the latest games. But as grandparents, we need to know enough about the technology available to our grandkids, how they use it, and how they should use it.
So, take some time to talk to your grandchildren about the technology they use. What are they learning from it? How do they search for information on the internet? How are they being creative—creating music, performing dance, writing books, plays, or poetry? Everyone texts and sends funny pictures but dig deep to show them how they can use their technology as a true learning tool.