Tech, Parents, and the Tea Party

How Did We Become Our Parents' IT?

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...