With society’s increased reliance on technology, many people fear that we are losing the in-person interactions that help us better understand each other. Although spending quality face time is important, connecting online via social media and tools like Skype is a great option for grandchildren and grandparents separated by geography or unconventional family structures.
Teenagers prefer to use technology to communicate with their relatives, partly because of the instantaneous nature of the internet. In a study on intergenerational online communication, for example, one teenage girl reflected on the difference between keeping in touch with her grandmother who uses email and her other grandmother who refrains from any sort of computer use. She shared that it was easier to write to her grandmother who used the computer, especially since she is constantly online herself. Meanwhile, she described correspondence with her other grandmother as “having to write her whole letters back and the events are delayed and I am trying to think back to what happened.”
Technology does more than offer a platform for connection between generations — more importantly, technology offers grandchildren and grandparents a way to bond and learn from each other. Studies show that grandparents and their grandchildren develop important digital citizenship skills and form stronger bonds when exploring the internet and learning about technology together.
Seniors and teenagers benefit from this sharing of knowledge in a number of ways. In addition to being a positive role model for younger family members, connecting through technology allows seniors to offer their grandchildren:
- A listening ear — because they aren’t parents, grandparents have a unique opportunity to help troubled teens
- A stronger sense of cultural heritage and family history
- Time together online — seniors frequently have more time than family members who work
Teenagers have a lot to offer their grandparents too, including:
- A sense of purpose and value
- Companionship and love
- Knowledge around how to use the internet for more than communicating, e.g. to conduct research, play games, shop, etc.
- Motivation for staying active and engaged
Ways to get started
Whether you rarely go near a computer or surf the web often, there are plenty of benefits to interacting with your grandchildren online.
The apps below offer some great ways to connect, especially for families who live apart:
- Ancestry websites are a great way for grandparents and older grandchildren to explore their family’s history together. Some popular ones include Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.
- Keepy: Share art-work, school projects and other things that grandparents love to put on their fridge, but might not have room for.
- Kindoma: Draw, play or read together in real time.
- Scoot & Doodle: Collaborate together on homework.
- Skype and Snapchat are apps that allow you to send photos and videos, talk and text in real time.
- Wheel of Fortune is a popular game app that grandparents and grandchildren of all ages can play together, no matter the distance.
Do you use technology to stay in touch with your grandchildren? Do you have any apps or programs that you’d recommend? Share them with us in the comments below.