Years ago, I received my first iPod as a birthday gift. My 12-year-old daughter had gotten one a few months earlier and asked if I wanted her to program mine. It was a sweet offer and I accepted.
You know the old proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? Well, my daughter gave me that first fish, and today I remain technologically impaired.
To the outside world, I look like an official member of the 21st century. I work on an iMac, communicate on an iPhone, and read books on an iPad. But the truth is, I really have no idea what I am doing. I am at the mercy of my children whenever something goes awry with any of my electronic equipment.
On a weekly basis, my computer will start running slowly and I will beckon one of the kids to help me. “Mom!” my daughter will admonish, “How many windows did you open? You need to close your windows!” I always think I did, but I guess not. Sometimes my tool bar will fall off the screen. I stare at it confused until my 12-year-old son walks into the kitchen for a snack and I subtly ask if he could look at my computer. Tap, tap, tap and it has been fixed.
And although I send texts, the kids laugh at my index finger-pecking style. “You’re supposed to use both of your thumbs,” they explain in unison. How? How can I use my thumbs? I don’t think they are abnormally large, but I can’t seem to type just one letter when I use them.
Then there are the disappearing apps. I somehow swipe something on the screen of my phone and all of sudden my Safari icon has gone into the great abyss, until one of the kids quickly relocates it.
I mentioned my ineptitude with all things electronic to the technology teacher at my children’s elementary school. She explained that children today have grown up with the knowledge and language of technology and it comes fairly naturally to them. People my age, well, we didn’t grow up with it and therefore it can be more difficult to learn.
The ironic thing is that when I was a teen, I was actually pretty good with electronics. Back in the ’70s, my family got their first videocassette recorder (VCR). It was pretty sweet being able to tape shows and watch them whenever you wanted. And it was simple to use, at least for me.
My parents were a totally different story. Whenever they wanted to record a show, they had to ask me to “set the VCR.” When I went to college, they would call me (on a rotary phone) to walk them through it, and they still couldn’t do it. Every time I returned home from school, their VCR would be flashing “12:00” and I would shake my head at how clueless they were. I could not understand then why they couldn’t figure it out. But I do now.
A few years ago, my editor asked me to hyperlink something for an article I was writing. I had no clue what she meant. So I asked my daughter, and of course she knew how to do it. Once again, she offered to do it for me, but this time, I declined and had her teach me instead. I have to learn how to fish, especially since my best onsite tech consultant is leaving for college in September.
This article was originally published on