Hip Grannie gets Real about Kids and Technology

Until recently, I thought I was computer savvy. After all, I was emailing stories to editors before most of my friends had heard of email. I was a website editor for years. Then my grandchildren became techies, and I suddenly felt like a Luddite.

Luddites were the 19th Century factory workers who destroyed machines because they felt they put their jobs in jeopardy. Today the term is used to describe someone who shuns technology or feels downright behind the times. Enter the grandkids.

It all began several years ago when Rylan was about 4 years old. He was pecking away on my brand-new iPad as I was making breakfast. Suddenly, Papa and I heard some wild chatter, and Rylan nonchalantly said, “I just downloaded a movie on Netflix.” Papa and I were dumbstruck. We didn’t know that was possible.

Blackboards are so 1997

Our grandchildren are now in the fourth and second grades, and can out run us on the computer any day. It’s instinctive to them, the way television was to my generation and the car was to my parents. Thanks to a souped-up computer program at their school, working with a PC, iPad, iPhone or an app is as easy as flying down the playground slide.

It’s also made me watch my language. The other day Amelia asked to use my iPad, and I told her that it wasn’t working because it was “out of juice.” She looked at me in horror, and said slowly and emphatically, “Lollie, computers don’t run on juice. They have to be charged. They run on a battery.” I tried to imagine what would have happened if I’d actually poured a glass of orange juice on my iPad but didn’t go there.

In another instance, I was congratulating Amelia on being a teacher’s helper that week and asked if she got to do cool things like clean the black boards and erasers, a task I loved as a child. Again, she shook her head and announced, “We don’t have black boards anymore. We have smart boards.” I felt like Wilma Flintstone.

The kids are alright

I’m not alone. My friend DeDe told me that she has 100 apps on her iPhone and her three-year-old grandson can instantly locate his three favorite games without asking for help. My friend Pippi regularly gets Facetime calls from her 4-year-old grandson in Austin. He calls in without any parental help. Just a few years ago we thought that was Star Wars stuff.

And tweens are just as handy. My friend Gran recently kept hearing a train whistle that she could not locate. Then she realized it was coming from her iPhone. Her preteen granddaughter had programmed her text ping to sound like a train whistle. Each time Gran receives a text, Smoky Mary roars. "The weird thing is, I don’t know how to change it back to a soft ping,” Gran says.

Lending a helping hand

The world is changing faster and faster, and some of us are running as fast as we can to keep up with it. But despite our very best efforts, we now need our grandchildren to teach us along the way. I always thought it was the other way around – that I would be the teacher and they would be my students.

Fortunately, Rylan and Amelia are very patient teachers when I have problems switching the remote control on my television to Netflix or downloading an app on my iPhone. And secretly, it must make them feel very powerful to help this old Luddite. I recently read a quote that said, “Each person you meet has something new to teach you.” At the rate I’m going, I’ll need an army of grade schoolers to keep me going. But won’t it be fun?

Laura Claverie is a grandmother to two wonderful grandchildren, Rylan and Amelia. (the kids featured, although adorable, and not Rylan and Amelia)  Laura lives in the Garden District.

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