Bridging the Digital Divide Between Kids and Grandparents

By Lisa Castillo

Yalda T. Uhls studies kids and technology, and says grandparents can keep up. PHOTO COURTESY COMMON SENSE MEDIA

Yalda T. Uhls studies kids and technology, and says grandparents can keep up. PHOTO COURTESY COMMON SENSE MEDIA

In the digital world where we are raising our children, it seems that toddlers, teens and everyone in between is obsessed with technology and media. As growing numbers of grandparents occupy stools at the Apple Store Genius Bar, desperate to keep up, others choose to remain offline. How, then, can parents bridge this technology gap between their parents and their children, to help preserve the grandparent-grandchild bond?

Yalda T. Uhls, regional director of Common Sense Media and senior researcher at Children’s Digital Media Center Los Angeles (a collaboration between UCLA and Cal State LA), offers a few tips.

Uhls urges parents to create an environment where grandparents and children can bond over media. Find fun and educational apps and games that they can use together. You can also encourage your kids to act as experts and help their grandparents navigate this new territory. “They are digital natives, parents and grandparents are digital immigrants,” she says.

To grandparents, Uhls says, “Don’t be scared of technology. Embrace it.” Consider technology a way to connect with your grandchildren.

“My grandchildren don’t answer their phones much when I call, but when I send a text message, with lightning speed I get a response,” says grandmother of eight Marcia Schwartz. “When I have a problem with my iPad or iPhone, which is quite often, my 12-year-old tech-savvy grandson, Ethan, always comes to my rescue. Whether I need a new game App installed or my email stops working, Ethan has a solution. Some of my grandchildren live far away, and I feel like we are connected when I see what they are up to through their Instagram and Facebook posts .”

Like the other adults in kids’ lives, grandparents need to model responsible online behavior, and help parents pay attention to the types of content children are interacting with. It’s also important for families to find healthy balance – including some device-free time, says Uhls.

Common Sense Media, a California-based not-for-profit organization that provides independent reviews, age ratings and other information about all types of media, is hosting a fundraiser called Game On! Sept. 21 at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The event will include a grandparents corner. For more information, visit www.commonsensemedia.org.

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