How to Help Non-Techies Learn to Use the Internet

There are certain members of  my family who are amazingly smart and skillful in many arenas – just not the technological arena. This has become a bit of a problem since people try to send them information by email, and they want to order products online. We have tried numerous ways to help them become hip to the net (I know, my boys, eye roll time at my old-school word usage). At first it seemed like nothing would work, but recently I have begun to have hope. Here are some steps we are using to smooth the path to the Internet highway:
Offer the Proper Tools to Learn to Use the Internet
Time is in your favor here. Years ago we tried to teach our non-techie loved ones how to use the computer. It was sort of dismal. We literally drew arrows on the CPU and monitor to show how to turn it on and spent a ridiculous of time trying to explain how to use a mouse without clicking so many times that the computer would freeze. All it did was make them feel down on themselves, and now they are techno-phobic.
Then the iPad came along. Quite frankly, any tablet would do (sorry, fellow Apple fans, I just had to be real for a moment there). It is so much easier to tap a screen than it is to manipulate a mouse. It also helps if the person who is using  the technology can move around to a spot where they are comfortable. If you do choose to use a laptop or desktop, set it up to avoid as many pop-up screens as possible. They can really be overwhelming to a newbie.
Consider Unique Personalities
What will appeal to your non-techie the most, giving them incentive to use Internet tools? One person in my family is really into classic church hymns, so I set up the iPad to play George Beverly Shea and Gaither stations on Pandora. Now the family member can hear the music with only a couple of taps. Another family member loves to watch photos so we uploaded a bunch of family photos and turned them into the computer screen saver so now the person has incentive to boot the machine. It’s a start, right?
Set up Email and Other Accounts in Advance
While it’s nice to have a person have a say in what their email is going to be, this might be overwhelming to the techie novice. Before you lead them to the computer for email, set up an account and add a few close family members or friends to the address book. Don’t give out the email address to others until the person is more comfortable with the programs. Stick by them as they learn to compose, respond and forward as well as open attachments. Once they become comfortable with email, you can offer to change their email address if desired.
Explain How to Use Video Cams 
This might be a step that seems too advanced for a beginner, but it might be the most important. While the videos showing couples trying to figure out cameras might be amusing, it’s really better for everyone if you can make the process smooth. Video chatting can be invaluable, especially when you have elderly relatives who don’t see and type well. It’s also helpful for visual check-ins on relatives and friends who live far away.
These suggestions are the tip of an iceberg, but they really help non-techies get comfortable with the web, and that benefits everyone. Slow and steady. It’s a good way to go.

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2 responses to “How to Help Non-Techies Learn to Use the Internet”

  1. Wish I would have had these tips when we set mom up with her computer a few years ago. She did try (she was in her 80’s), but it was overwhelming to her, and all my notes didn’t help a bit. Great ideas!

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