Author Topic: Parents who are Computer Illiterate  (Read 10748 times)

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Slartibartfast

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2013, 01:18:16 AM »
My MIL is nowhere near this bad, but she is also intentionally helpless when it comes to computers.  She'd make PA remarks about things she expected DH to drive over and fix - things like the off-brand photo printer she bought on sale five years ago and never got connected properly because DH couldn't find the drivers online and it didn't come with a disk.  "Well I would have had the pictures to show you already, but I can't print them out.  I guess you just haven't had time to come take a look at the printer."  Except DH did look at the printer, five years ago, and concluded that it would take more time than it was worth because MIL wouldn't actually use it anyway.  We tried finding ways to make the computer more appealing and less scary, but we finally came up with the perfect solution:

We bought MIL an iPad.  (Well, FIL bought her the iPad and we bought several apps for her.)  It's great for what she needs (email, looking up TV show websites, and entering whatever contests the morning show announcers tell her to).  She's still not comfortable doing all the fiddly bits like tweaking settings and whatnot, but she's gotten to the point where she's actually downloaded a few apps of her own and she uses email regularly.

We lucked out and found a used iPad cheap, but you might want to consider a Kindle Fire or something like that - cheap, easy browsing and email capabilities without all the frustrations of an actual computer.

Need to Change

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2013, 01:23:33 AM »
My FIL was once an expert user, but has never been able to deal well with any system post-Windows 3.1.  He has additional issues as well, but before those grew more severe, we used to be able to handle some of his problems over the phone.  (Nowadays I must make house calls, and I usually just fix it myself.  But he's only 15 minutes away.)

After way too much trial-and-error, I learned that I had to make sure he was at the computer, and ready to follow some steps and/or answer some questions.

Then I'd say something like:  "Let's try this.  Here's Step 1." (And then I'd number each step before going into details.)  Or, "I'm going to ask you some questions.  First question ..."

Whenever I moved too quickly into Solution Mode and forgot to ease him into the process of actually doing something, all we got was confusion.  His way of handling confusion was different from your Mom's, but the result was the same -- Problem Unsolved.

I have no idea if that's what's happening with your Mom, but if she's not prepped, then she may simply not be hearing your first instructions.  So, by the time she finally does tune in, she's thoroughly lost.

If she hates to make phone calls and chat, then the simple but stressful effort of making a call may be yet another distraction.  Double brain-freeze!

As others have said, your only recourse may be to refer to the already-written notes, broken-record style.  (You may also want to ask her if the notes give her trouble, for any reason.  And always keep copies of the latest version handy for yourself.)

crella

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2013, 02:41:34 AM »
With some older folk, there seems to be a total brain-freeze panic reaction to computers. My Dad took to them like a fish to water, and we talked daily for years. My mother wouldn't go near the computer..she was terrified of it, but bluffed out of my teaching her by yelling 'I have NO INTEREST in the computer! NO interest!' . It was her stock reaction. It was unfortunate, because once my Dad passed, she was lost, she had no idea how to use Skype or anything. I finally got her to the point of clicking on Skype, but if something on the desktop had changed, she couldn't do it.

It's frustrating. I hope the written instructions end up being helpful. I know how much time it takes to put those together.

Bethalize

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2013, 04:30:54 AM »
Oh, I feel your pain! My rules is that I will provide technical support for anyone over 65 so long as they install TeamViewer. That program has saved me hours of my life. No,days.

 
Think eccentric mathematician: brilliant at her job, but is a recluse who can't socialise her way out of a wet paper bag. This also unfortunately means she is immune to bean dipping, since she ignores anything that is said that she doesn't see as relevant to the subject at hand. This also means she doesn't hang up on a phone call until she has got what she wants.

I take a strong but shruggy line with people who don't want to learn. I say it's okay, you're smart enough to learn to do something if you want to, and if you don't you'll cope. There are other ways to communicate/get information. It's amazing how interested they get when they realise they have to show some enthusiasm for it to get at all the stuff they are missing out on. In this particular case I think since the normal interaction patterns don't work you need to try something else. Say: "The answer is in the instruction book I wrote you. Page 5. Go and follow it." After all, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results :-)


bonyk

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2013, 06:33:00 AM »
I have some sympathy for MIL; there are certain topics that make my brain shut off - anything science or financial turns me into a moron.  I don't think again has anything to do with it.

It sounds like the written instructions are not helping MIL, and neither are hearing the instructions on the phone.  Have you considered using the "print screen" function on you computer so that you can send MIL visual instructions?  That may work better for her.  (Of course, you are not obligated to do this.  Just a suggestion if you want to help her.)

Hmmmmm

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2013, 07:15:36 AM »
Pen, I would go nuts with this. I think you have two options.

The first is the easiest. Make her pay for a subsription to something like "Go to my PC" and when she has a problem, she grants you rights  to log in and take over her computer and just fix it.

The second suggestion is when she says the first "Mmmm" in response to a question do what I do with my teenagers "I don't know what Mmmm means. Call me back when you ready to talk."  Do not offer to call her back later because you have then accepted responsibility for getting her computer fixed.

spookycatlady

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2013, 08:04:42 AM »
After reading that, I took some aspirin.  I am going to agree with previous posters with a variation of "You don't seem up to this right now. Bye!" 

I got so tired of being tech support for my parents, I switched operating systems.  Dad gets personally offended by weather, so imagine how he feels about a computer not working.   Mom doesn't listen, starts clicking everywhere, then wonders why her screen is full of open programs and it's running slow.  It was so stressful and for a while, it felt like it was the only kind of phone call I would get.

I bought a Mac and then just started playing dumb.  "Sorry, can't help you.  I don't know about Windows... I only use a PC at work and we have IT guys to sort us out."

The last time I said that to my Dad he responded, "That's not much of an answer."

I said, "Well, that's the answer you're getting."

Then my folks started migrating to Apple products... I would like to inform you all that I am personally responsible for any issue you may be having with iTunes because according to my Dad, if I wasn't so into Mac, someone would be able to come along and develop a better music player.  All.  My.  Fault.   :P


Coley

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2013, 08:16:24 AM »
Oh, I feel your pain! My rules is that I will provide technical support for anyone over 65 so long as they install TeamViewer. That program has saved me hours of my life. No,days.

 
Think eccentric mathematician: brilliant at her job, but is a recluse who can't socialise her way out of a wet paper bag. This also unfortunately means she is immune to bean dipping, since she ignores anything that is said that she doesn't see as relevant to the subject at hand. This also means she doesn't hang up on a phone call until she has got what she wants.

I take a strong but shruggy line with people who don't want to learn. I say it's okay, you're smart enough to learn to do something if you want to, and if you don't you'll cope. There are other ways to communicate/get information. It's amazing how interested they get when they realise they have to show some enthusiasm for it to get at all the stuff they are missing out on. In this particular case I think since the normal interaction patterns don't work you need to try something else. Say: "The answer is in the instruction book I wrote you. Page 5. Go and follow it." After all, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results :-)
'

The bolded above was my thought as well. I also like the idea of having her pay for GoToMyPC or TeamViewer.

OP, I understand how frustrating this is for you. I've been in the same position with my parents. My dad used to panic when the computer would do things he didn't understand. And he'd been using a computer for years before he retired, so he wasn't a total newbie. He just didn't have his office's tech support to rely on anymore. My mother is much the same. She also used a computer for years before she retired, so also not a newbie.

My parents began calling me to "help" them fix the problems. I quickly realized that it was not possible to walk them through the steps to fix it by phone. They would get lost in what I was asking them to do. It was frustrating. My mother would ask me to just go there and fix it for her. I live an hour away, and I can't just drop everything to go there and fix it. I would tell her when I could be there, and it often wasn't good enough because she needed to do something right away. My only solution there was for her to call the computer's tech support or in some instances her ISP's tech support. Once my mother started having success in calling tech support, her dependence on me dropped off.

I also will add that my DH also is computer illiterate, although the entirety of his job revolves around using a computer. I sometimes have to troubleshoot problems with him. Currently, we have a new version of MS Office that needs to be installed on his laptop. This involves putting in the CD and following the installation instructions. He has asked me several times when "we" can install it. The CD is right there, but he has yet to try it on his own. When "we" install it, in actuality, he will install it. I will be there to observe, but I think it's important for him to see that he can install it himself.

Queen of Clubs

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2013, 08:17:01 AM »
I think remotely accessing her pc is a brilliant idea!  If you can get her to let you do that, OP, I think that would be the best option.

If not, I'd buy her the Dummies Guide for her operating system and tell her to look it up in the book every single time.  She sounds incredibly frustrating to deal with.

MrTango

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2013, 08:41:56 AM »
I know a couple of people who are like the OP's MIL when it comes to computers.  I decided that I am not their tech support person, or anyone else's.  Unless it's a computer that I own, I will not attempt to diagnose or fix a problem, and I will not teach someone how to operate their computer.

I also figure that if a person has to pay to have their computer fixed, they're more likely to actually put in the effort to learn how to use it without causing further problems.


hjaye

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #25 on: March 08, 2013, 08:58:05 AM »
Is there anyway you can set up her computer to allow you remote access so you can remote into her machine and show her what to do?


bopper

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2013, 09:06:23 AM »
Technological solution:  Next time you are near her computer, set it so that a Browser automatically launchs.  Have her favorite sites saved to the favorites bar so she can just click on them.  Or have access to one of those live meeting/netweb/computer sharing programs so you can show her what to do?

Socialogical solution: 
Her: mmmmmm.
You;  <wait for a couple of minutes>  Hey MIL, call be back when you get that part done.

VorFemme

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #27 on: March 08, 2013, 09:31:49 AM »
I just found a copy of the omnibus version of XP for Dummies (nine books in one binding).  At $7 USA, it was about the cost of driving over to the friend's house to help her work out how to use the "new" computer she'd bought two years ago.

She's happy.

Microsoft just extended the support of XP until early 2014 - so she's even happier. 

And I don't get asked questions about an operating system that I haven't used in at least two years.....so I'm happy. 
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I say more?

betty

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2013, 10:01:58 AM »
I see some other people have mentioned getting remote access to the computer so you can "take over" and do what needs to be done without being there. If you are going to continue to be the computer support person, it would be worth hiring a computer person to go over once to install the remote access program.

I installed LogMeIn on my parents computer.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 10:04:14 AM by betty »

Virg

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Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
« Reply #29 on: March 08, 2013, 10:07:12 AM »
bonyk wrote:

"I have some sympathy for MIL; there are certain topics that make my brain shut off - anything science or financial turns me into a moron.  I don't think again has anything to do with it."

In response to this, I present the following from Pen^2: "Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish."  That's not "brain shutting off", that's someone who's avoiding the task due to something going on in her head because there's no rational argument that someone a thousand miles away can fix the computer if she's not in the same room with it.

Based on this, Pen^2, your MIL isn't computer illiterate, she's actively avoiding learning about the computer.  Why is something I suspect you'll be better at knowing than any of us, but she's not like this because she just can't get the hang of using a computer, there's something a lot deeper going on.  The only way you're going to "fix" this issue is disengage because your further descriptions of her personality don't lend themselves to fixing what's wrong with her interactions with a computer.

So, I'll simply say that there's nothing rude about telling her, "I've given you written instructions that you don't read, and when I tell you what steps to take you don't do them.  If you're unwilling to listen to my advice then there's no point in asking for it."  I understand that this may negatively affect your already tenuous relationship, but so will carrying around a bunch of resentment, which is evident by the fact that you're asking us for advice on how to change it.  If you want to continue supporting her computer use, I'd suggest that you set up some remote control software, configure it to be as simple as you can make it to launch, and then refuse to help her until and unless she runs that software so you can log in and look it over yourself.

Virg