5 Mistakes You’re Making When Teaching Your Parents about Their Smartphones

According to Pew Research, the percent of people that own a smartphone has doubled since 2011. For many of us that means helping our digitally challenged parents, grandparents or friends learn how to use their new gadgets.

% of US Adults Who Own Smartphones

% of US Adults Who Own Smartphones

Our team has hosted hundreds of workshops, mainly on the iPhone and iPad for seniors. Often, we meet people that had friends or family help get them started and made one of these common mistakes:

Mistake #1: Doing Partial Setup

Figuring out how to set up a smartphone or tablet is no easy task, but it’s crucial to the user experience. You need to sign into various accounts and adjust default settings. If too many things are skipped, new users can get easily confused and frustrated.

Here’s a general checklist:

  • Accessibility / Wi-Fi Settings
  • Passcode/Lock
  • App Store Account (Google Play or iTunes)
  • Contacts
  • Email or Messaging Service
  • Relevant Apps - Facebook, games, news, etc.

Mistake #2: Not Documenting Passwords

Even if you take the time to do a complete setup, the odds are that your loved ones will unintentionally log out or need to enter a user name / password combo for some other reason. If they cannot find a password, they’ll need your help. Write down a list of their user names/passwords and encourage them to store it in a secure place. Just to be safe, add their accounts to your list of passwords.

Mistake #3: Overwhelming New Learners with Information

While you want to be thorough in the setup process, limit the amount of information that you introduce at once. At first, keep it simple. Show them how to use the aspects of the smartphone or tablet that you think will appeal most.

Mistake #4: Making Assumptions

I was guilty of this one! When I taught my grandmother how to use an iPad, I introduced her to Pandora but did not explain how to turn the music off. A few hours later she called me in a panic shouting, “I CAN’T GET JOHN DENVER TO STOP SINGING”.

Intergenerational learning can be challenging. Many concepts and skills that are intuitive for younger generations are completely foreign to new learners - assume nothing!

The challenges of intergenerational technology training...

Mistake #5: Doing It for Them

When your Mom asks how she can send a picture of her garden to her sister, don’t show her how to do it by tapping the screen. Instead, verbally coach her through the process.

You can jot down the steps or utilize a Generation Connect training guide. That way, she can reference your notes until it becomes a learned behavior.