Teaching Computers to Newbies

Updated on August 27, 2015

Young woman and elderly woman with laptop computer

Technology has become a huge part of life. Computers, smartphones and mobile devices of all sorts open the world of information. Sites like Wikipedia, Wikileaks and others have made information at the forefront of everything the Internet is. Email and Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have made connecting with like-minded people easy and fun, but this can all be baffling for new computer and technology users. If now is the time to teach your elderly parents how to use the Internet, here’s how to do it:

What They Want

Identify what they want. Don’t over complicate computers with lots of options. Computers are capable of so much, new users can easily get lost in options and settings. They might even delete files essential for the use of the operating system. So sit down with mom and dad and make sure you all have similar expectations. An estimated 6.5 million people over the age of 55 have never used the Internet, according to MyAgingParent.com. There may be many reasons for this. A lack of confidence with the machines or a fear of wasted time for little gain. Whatever it is, address the reasons why he or she hasn’t used the Internet, and why they can and will learn, given time.

Screen Resolution

One reason some seniors haven’t used the Internet, tablets or computers is simply their eye sight. A high resolution on a screen might look good, but it also decreases the size of icons, text, and pictures. Explain that everything in a computer or mobile device is adjustable. Keep that in mind when shopping for a computer or tablet for your senior. Whether it’s volume, screen resolution or mouse sensitivity, you can help anyone set up a computer to their personal preferences.


While services like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and even Amazon can help the elderly feel in touch and part of a larger world, it also comes with its fair share of dangers. New computer users, especially those who spend a lot of time on the Internet, are at risk of identity theft. From phishing schemes to email hacks, teach them about the dangers of ever releasing their personal information. Stress that there are many scams that may look legitimate, and that under no circumstance should they send anyone their credit card number or other financial or personal information. As a safety net, utilize a credit monitoring service. If a data hack or scammer does take advantage of them, they won’t be alone in their attempt to reclaim their identity.


Many people use the Internet for email and social network sites, like Facebook or Twitter. If your friend or family member is a big reader, perhaps Goodreads is where he or she will spend much of his or her online time. In anycase, teach them about the sites they are most interested in using. For instance, Facebook’s wall can be confusing. Teach them how to comment, visit profiles and leave public and private message. Help them join a book club on Goodreads. This includes how to post on the forums and groups, participate in polls for the books read each month, and comment on other group member’s posts. If they are dead set on the use of Twitter explain how this social media platform revolves around original content and the sharing of information. Email can be one of the most difficult concepts to understand. Compose an email with them and send it. Show them how to open email, but stress that some messages can have viruses. Make sure they are able to differentiate between good and bad emails.


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