‘Get Your Folks Online’ helps you teach your parents how to use the web

25 Nov 2011

Google and Age Action have joined forces to create ‘Get Your Folks Online,’ a website which gives people the resources to them help teach older family members how to use the internet.

Launching today, the new website gives technologically savvy people lesson plans to help them teach older people about using the web, including accessing email, shopping online and protecting themselves from identity theft.

“What we’re trying to do is to help people understand that they have a responsibility to pass on internet skills to their parents because what we find is that 35pc of people over the age of 50 are using the internet, whereas that’s much higher in the under-50 age group,” said Sinead Gibney, Social Manager for Google Ireland.

“We know that older people want to learn but they’re not feeling confident enough to ask their children,” she said.

Partnering with Age Action, Google Ireland previously ran classes to teach older, less technologically familiar members of the public how to use the internet.

They have brought the curriculum from these classes to the Get Your Folks Online website, allowing more people to pass on their knowledge of the web to the older generation.

As well as being able to teach in set courses for beginners and improvers, people can sign up for a custom course depending on the needs of their student. Lesson plans are broken into manageable parts and include notes for students.

A more positive teaching experience

Gibney said she has heard many younger people say they’ve tried to teach their parents how to use the web, with little success. She argues this is because people tend to help their parents in a reactionary way, pointing out that they only help when parents are stuck, rather than trying to teach them the fundamentals of using the web.

“What we’re suggesting is that if they make it a proactive experience and say to parents, ‘I’m going to teach you something about the internet,’ it can become a completely different experience,” she said.

Indeed, by teaching them how to use the technology rather than simply dealing with problems, it can become a much less frustrating experience for both parties. Gibney recalled how she tested out the website’s lesson plans with her father, who is a heavy internet user and is still in the workforce. However, during this process, she found he didn’t seem to understand social networking.

“When I sat down to work it through with him, it was actually a fun and really warm experience for the both of us. If you do it in a much more proactive fashion, it can be a much more positive experience,” she said.

Adding to their skillset

She also noted that some people assume that just because their parents know how to use some online tools, it doesn’t mean they can’t be taught more.

“I think people assume that because their parents use email that that’s enough and that they’re happy and content with what they have. But that’s not the case – we’re seeing that people do want to learn more,” she said.

“They often email, but don’t feel confident enough to go any further than that. We encourage people to make no assumptions about their parents.

“Just because they email doesn’t necessarily mean that they can troubleshoot an email account if they had any difficulty with it or are even able to set up a new email account or a social networking account,” she said.

By teaching older, less technology-inclined people how to use the internet, young people can help them take advantage of all the benefits the web provides and reduce the generational gap online.

“If we take on our own individual responsibilities to pass on these internet skills to our parents or somebody in our lives wanting to learn or who may not even be aware that they want to learn, then I think we can reduce this age action digital divide,” she said.