Tech, Parents, and the Tea Party

How Did We Become Our Parents' IT?

11.22.12 4:30 PM ET

Someone once joked that the Tea Party Movement was my generation's punishment for teaching our parents how to use the Internet. As many of us know, that teaching continues on a daily basis; a big part of the Thanksgiving ritual for many will involve going through a punch list of parental computer issues before being allowed to sit down and eat turkey. In my family, I am the IT guy. A friend -- who is his aged mother's IT guy -- forwarded me this transcription of a phone exchange he had recently trying to help her with the iBooks app for the iPad.

> Paul: Touch where it says "Store"

> Mother: Not Collections?

> P: I meant it when I said Store. Press Store.

> M: Ohhhh! Look! Look at all these things! I see dsfkljsa; akslfjkfdsa daslkfksaf --
>
> P: Mom? Hang with me here. On the upper right i need you to search for the word iPad.
>
> M: Where's search?
>
> P: See in the upper right there's an oval with a magnifying glass? Touch there and type --
>
> M: Oh! What did i do?
>
> P: (silence)
>
> P: You see where there's a button that says FREE? Press it.
>
> M: I get the white box!
>
> P: Mom? That's the information box that tells you about the book. What I need you to do is press anywhere outside the white box.
>
> M: The screen is all grey! what happened! Did they sell me a defective one? I knew it! Sell the defective unit to the old lady --
>
> P: Mom. Look in the upper left corner. Do you see something that says "iBooks"?
>
> M: Yes.
>
> P: Good. And you see the button that reads FREE? Now listen carefully. I need you to touch that button.
>
> M: I get the white box!
>
>
> (20 min later)
>
> M: Oh! Now the button turned green and it says "Get Book." Do I press that?
>
> P: Yes please.
>
> M: i get the white box!
>
> (15 min later, the app has downloaded. We're inside the app)
>
> M: Wait! I see a bookcase! Where's the book?
>
> P: Mom? just wait a second --
>
> M: I see it! How do I open it?
>
> P: How might you think you open it? (I'm trying to get her to think...)
>
> M: No! Now I see all my icons.
>
> P: I sounds like you swiped the screen and you're looking at your Home page.
>
> M: How do I know I'm at the Home Page? It doesn't say Home Page.
>
> (later, we're inside the book)

> P: I'm going to show you a few tips about iBooks so you'll be able to enjoy reading the User Guide.
>
> M: I can do this myself you know.
>
> P: I understand. Now you know how on your Kindle you can make the letters go big --
>
> M: I'm not an idiot. I see there's the aA button - - wait! where did it go? The buttons! They all disappeared!
>
> P: I'm guessing you touched somewhere near the buttons. That makes them disappear --
>
> M: Well that's the stupidest thing I've ever --
>
> P: Some people prefer to read without computer buttons on the screen. If you'd like the buttons you merely touch where you think they should be.
>
> M: How am I supposed to know where I think they're supposed to be if they're not there?
>
> (Then I show her different settings. I am feeling giddy and decide to show her Themes. Big mistake)

> P: Look, you can choose White, Sepia, or Night. My preference is Sep -
>
> M: What just happened?!
>
> P: (silence) (because I'm on the phone and cannot react to what is happening in front of her eyes)
>
> P: Mom?
>
> M: The screen. It just turned black! oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no...
>
> P: Mom, it sounds like you selected Night. Why don't you choose White, I think that would be better for you?
>
> M: How do I do that?
>
> P: Remember the aA button?
>
> M: I thought I pressed Themes.
>
> P: Right. That's an option you get when you press aA.
>
> M: But I don't want to change the size.
>
> P: Mom?
>
> M: (silence)
>
> P: Why don't you click the aA button and that will bring you to Themes...