Oh My Tech!: Don’t be afraid of that holiday gadget

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: January 3, 2013 07:41PM
Updated: May 5, 2013 11:31PM
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Vince Horiuchi

Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly got a lovely gift for the holidays from his kids — a brand new Apple iPad.

That tells me two things: First, his children REALLY love him for giving him such a great present. And two, he’s in big trouble. Every day, Paul has to call our IT guys just to tell him how to turn on his work computer.

This is Paul’s first mobile device aside from his phone, and he’s not in a unique position. There’s probably millions of fathers and mothers who got high-tech gifts from their more tech-savvy children or grandchildren for the holidays yet many of these older folks have no idea how to use them.

The problem is that many kids get their parents or grandparents these wonderful technological toys in hopes of helping usher their elders into the 21st century. But they don’t really give them the most important part of the gifts: the knowledge of how to use them.

Sure, they may tell them how to turn on the thing and maybe run solitaire. But the best features are left untaught, like how to use Skype so they can video conference with their grandkids, or Netflix so they can cut the cable-TV cord.

If you’re new to technology but got a shiny new computer tablet, laptop, smartphone or e-book reader for the holidays from your kids or grandkids, the first thing to do is not panic.

Your initial instinct may be to throw the thing into the closet where it will collect dust with the George Foreman Grill or the Clapper light switch. Perhaps you’re too scared to turn it on.

But remember, there is a reason your offspring gave you this window into the new century — they want to connect with you on a technological level. Either that or it’s their revenge for not letting them do what they wanted as teen-agers.

So don’t let them off scott free when all they show you is how to turn on your new device. Make an appointment to sit down with them and show you the ropes, from downloading new apps to buying and reading new books and movies for your tablet or e-reader.

And while your kids may know how to use your new device, you undoubtedly have other friends who are techno-geeks and know how to use it as well. Perhaps they can come over to give you some lessons (I have this nagging feeling that Paul Rolly will be turning to me, for example).

Check with local recreation centers or senior citizens centers. Most of them host free classes for technological newbies that teach you more than just the basics for devices ranging from smartphones to tablets, e-book readers and desktop computers. The new Millcreek Community Center at 2266 E. Evergreen Ave., for example, has iPad classes twice a month for seniors.

And don’t feel embarrassed attending a class like that. Last year, I wrote a story about these classes for seniors, and a vast majority of those who attended told me they got their devices from their kids or grandkids as presents.

Older people with gadgets is a growing demographic. Seven percent of all owners of computer tablets, including iPads, Kindles and Android tablets, are over the age of 65, and another 21 percent are over 50, according to figures from Nielsen. In a Harris Interactive survey, 17 percent of people over the age of 67 said they were at least “somewhat likely” to get a computer tablet or e-reader within the next six months.

So don’t let that new gadget intimidate you. It will open up a whole new world of possibilities and let you experience things in ways that weren’t available just five years ago.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.