being a mom

Cyber Seniors Shows Grandmas How Not To Be Scared Of The Internet

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cyber seniors Cyber Seniors, a documentary film chronicling the lives of senior citizens and their introduction to the internet, is set to premiere country-wide this month. Judging from the trailers, the film should prove to be both interesting and endearing. The endearing aspect is that these technology challenged elders do not have to go through this journey alone. They have been assigned teenagers as their mentors.

I freely admit I was one of those “reluctant” technology users back in the day. I felt proud if I was able to type out a Word document, save it, and print it out. If I did that much, I felt as if I had accomplished something. And tried to leave it at that. When the internet exploded, everything changed. I vividly remember the introduction of AOL and being fascinated by the concept. Talking to people over a computer?  No way!  I found it pretty amazing. Once I got the hang of the whole instant messaging thing, I really didn’t even feel the need to pick up the phone anymore. If I ever had something urgent to tell a friend, I knew they would eventually look at their computer screen and respond. A few years later, My Space became the next big thing. At that time, I was pushing thirty and figured I was just too old. Not long after, I heard about another sweet little invention by the name of Facebook. I remember my sister, who was ten years younger, telling me that was the big one. I mulled it over for a year or two, and then finally made the leap. Life for me has not been the same since then. My addiction was almost instant.

I often wonder what my own mother would have thought about the internet explosion. She passed away in 1999, just around the time that it was really getting started. I giggle when I think of her initial response being one of reluctance, then realizing it would be the perfect place for her to gossip and be nosy. My dad, who is still living, is steadfastly opposed altogether. When I tell him that it might be a wonderful experience for him to re-connect with others, he tells me that he never wanted to be connected with anyone to begin with. Fair enough. At least he is honest.

Throughout the years, there have been countless article and debates over social media and young children. My own children are pretty young and I have had more than one panic attack in thinking about their future regarding social media. Honestly, it scares the hell out of me. When I am momentarily relieved with the idea that Facebook may not be around when my daughter and son reach their teenage years, I freak out again when I realize that it would only mean it was replaced by something similar. And perhaps something even more to worry about.

In spite of everything, I am all for people using technology for something positive. Especially when it comes to bringing families together. Katie’s Grandpa may be all the way on the other side of the world in Australia, but he can still not only hear but see his family daily thanks to Skype. For little Billy, Grandma may not be well enough to attend her grandson’s baseball game but she was able to see his first homerun of the season. He uploaded the video to Facebook to make sure she didn’t miss a thing. Even my own father, with his adamant anti-technology attitude, joins in on the fun from time to time. With the gift of his iPad a couple of years ago, he has learned to take videos. When he is alone at night and unable to sleep, he watches the videos he has collected of his grandchildren. He says it is the best part of his night.

In watching the trailer of Cyber Seniors, I do get a bit choked up when I see the elders working with the youngsters. Young men and women teaching senior citizens a thing or two about their life. While at times comical, it also shows both caring and patience. I can only imagine it being a wonderful experience for all. The youth of today definitely has a lot to learn from the generation that came before them. In that way, everyone benefits from the experience.

One of the most interesting aspects of social media is the way in which it has evolved. Initially, cyberspace was a haven for mostly teenagers and twentysomethings. As the years have progressed, that really isn’t the case anymore. Older people are joining every day. Whenever you type a status, be prepared for your fifty two year old aunt to also have an opinion. Because she is on Facebook too. And she is keeping up with your posts. So watch your language!

I do smile a bit when I think of my own daughter this past year. My daughter, at four, is a curious one. And she, like so many other young children, has grown proficient at using the computer. She really got a chance at learning during this past winter. One of our best pastimes on snow days was to gather in front of the computer and watch funny videos on Hulu. She grew very fond of some of the old Saturday Night Live sketches. One of her favorites was the classic “More Cowbell” sketch featuring Christopher Walken. She had to show grandpa how funny it was. With my little girl on my dad’s lap she taught him all there was to know about playing funny videos on the computer. My dad was fascinated. He had heard of YouTube and Hulu but had no idea of all the videos he had right at his fingertips. Just in time for my dad to tell her all about Christopher Walken and how he was an actor back in grandpa’s day. She didn’t exactly understand, but it was a cute moment. Young and old learning from each other. Laughing to the point of tears, they watched over and over again. Mommy didn’t mind. My nutty daughter and crazy father found some common ground. Being together and enjoying each other’s company. And that, to me, was all that mattered.