Good Deed of the Day: Providing Patient Parental Tech Support

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My parents are not what I would call "high tech" — or really even any tech. My dad only recently started texting and my mom doesn't own a computer, but they often run into technological quandaries despite their lack of gadgets — which means it often falls to me to help them out. It's easy to grow impatient and frustrated when providing a little parental tech support, so I thought I'd round up some advice from people who have been there.

I did an informal survey with some friends online and off, and this was some of the best advice:

The more calmly you approach the situation, the better it will go. Remember this is mostly like a role reversal and there is some inherent anxiety in that. So, act like it's no big deal and that will make things far less frustrating.

Be annoyingly clear. It will feel excessive, but emphasize that they only do exactly what you say and don't try clicking things you didn't explicitly ask for.

Help in person, but then write it down. And then make sure to walk through the instructions you wrote out with them so they can see how each step applies. This is best for repetitive tasks like printing.

Just get them familiar with Google Search and determining what's worth clicking on and what isn't. It's what 99% of professional tech support people do when they can't find an answer anyway!

So what do you do to keep tensions low when providing tech support for parents, grandparents, colleagues or loved ones? Share your tips in the comments!

(Image credits: Kim Lucian)

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Liz is a writer and filmmaker from Minneapolis. She was nominated for a Webby and won an Emmy for Science of Watchmen, a documentary short about the physics in the comic book movie. She’s a tech obsessive, verified nerd and total Anglophile.

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