10 Insights to Bridge the Tech Generation Gap

10 Insights to Bridge the Tech Generation Gap

Your toddler tries to turn magazine pages by swiping his finger along the bottom of the page, and yet your mom has yet to locate the power button on the new iPad you just bought her. This is seemingly the greatest generation gap in history, and here you are sandwiched in the middle trying to hold the ends together. Although it is tempting to throw up your hands before even trying to bridge this gap, I want to share some insights I learned from three people entrenched in the world of family and technology who I met at the FamilyTech Summit as part of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, who helped me to see that it’s much less about the technical know-how, and much more about our approach and mindset. What I learned is that we must first:

  1. Banish ageism. It is real, but it can be overcome. Because:
  2. Just because it’s not native doesn’t mean it can’t be learned. These two insights came from Brenda Rusnak, producer of Cyber Seniors, a documentary about a few teenagers who sought out to teach some local seniors to use the internet. It is both hilarious and heartwarming, and watching the teens try to explain things like email and Facebook to the octogenarians also shows how important it is to:
  3. Start at the beginning, don’t take what you know for granted. Brenda said some of the teens used the metaphor of the internet as a library and webpages as books. Before you show Nana how to write on someone’s Timeline, explain how Facebook is a virtual rolodex for connecting with family and friends. Finally, from the movie comes the strong message that:
  4. This is our social responsibility. Showing someone who wasn’t born into the digital age how to use a smartphone or the internet isn’t just cute, it’s necessary. Retired and elderly life is often physically and socially isolating as it is – not being able to connect will only isolate them further. I’m not saying quit your day job and start touring retirement homes performing tutorials, but the next time your parent or older friend asks what it is you’re tapping at, offer to show them (slowly!) how it works. And if you don’t think your parent will be interested when you ask them to learn how to operate a gadget or use a website, then take Dan Tynan’s advice, the Modern Family columnist for Yahoo Tech:
  5. Get your kids to teach your parents. Indeed if you ask them, who knows if they’ll do it. But if their grandbaby says they can’t wait to start sending them pictures every day, then they’ll be tapping and swiping before you know it. Dan added that this will also make it possible for your parents to:
  6. Connect with their kids and grandkids unintrusively. Grandparents often feel they are going at a slower pace than the younger generations, and don’t want to bother them during their busy schedules. But if they are in a WhatsApp group or a Facebook friend, then they can receive updates regularly and feel in-the-loop without bothering anyone. An added benefit that Dan shared was that:
  7. Familiarity now could lead to living independently longer later. A seemingly bold claim, but there are already many devices and apps making it possible to live independently longer. The more an aging parent gets used to keeping in contact and interacting with technology now, the longer independent living will be possible in the future – especially in combination with sensors and tracking technology. Now before you get too overwhelmed, take Robin Raskin’s advice, the founder of Living in Digital Times:
  8. Start with a single relevant task to do online. Think about the person who is getting online for the first time and what they love to do. Is it books? Listen to an audio book. Teach them to do something they already do regularly-online, let them master that and only then move on. Keep in mind that Robin recalls when it was a $5,000 buy-in to engage with technology, but that’s no longer the case:
  9. A small investment can go a long way. Even starting to text hi and I love you with grandkids can be downright life changing. And even better than that:
  10. Technology can help overcome certain challenges that come with age. Robin shared the story of a little boy who told her that he loved talking to his grandpa online because he didn’t have to yell (he could type!).

Just as Cyber Seniors Director, Saffron Cassaday, so eloquently puts it in the film – once we close this gap we can again have three generations in the same house, except that this time it will be a virtual house.

Welcome to the Future: Family Location Sharing and Much More

Welcome to the Future: Family Location Sharing and Much More

Remember back in the Stone Ages, when your kid would go off to the mall and you would shove a calling card in their hand and make them promise to call you when they arrived and then again when they were leaving? Kids of the future, and even young kids today it seems, will have no such experience – they won’t even have to call or text their parents to say where they are and when they’ll get home. You will know about your kids’ whereabouts thanks to a myriad of technological advances, the question is what we will all sacrifice to make that possible and if we’ll decide it’s worth it.

We had the chance to sit down with the Chief Business Officer of Life360 – a mobile app for family location sharing in real time, at all times. Far from a glimpse into the faraway future, Life360 is already connecting over 50 million families, including 60,000 who pay $5 a month for extra features like getting a tow when stuck with your car (even if you don’t know where you are, they do!) or automatically sending your kid’s health info to whoever needs it in case of an emergency.

You can listen to my full conversation with Itamar here, or read on for the most interesting parts!

The Family Hub of the Future?

Itamar Novick of Life360, told us that the vision of Life360 is to be the family hub, the family network in which families share locations, messages, and a host of other family-related info. How does it work? Each person in your family has the app on their smartphone and is a part of your closed family circle. When they choose, each family member can share their location with the rest of their family (all the time, for example). Novick explained that in an effort to make family life more frictionless, they wanted to eliminate the most frequent text or call within the family which is: where are you? or, when will you be home? With Life360 that text is irrelevant, each family member already knows where you are and when you’ll be home right in the app on a private map. 

But what about privacy?

We asked if some of their users were hesitant to embrace something that essentially sacrifices their privacy? He noted the fact that anyone can turn on and off their location sharing at any time. But what they were surprised to find was that people were turning off their location sharing less often than they thought they would, apparently comforted by the knowledge that they could shut it off if they wanted to, but in reality they don’t use the off switch very much.  What about the teens who are in that stage of finding their individual selves and might be resistant to what could feel like being tracked? Novick said that just like when Mark Zuckerberg said in 2008 that privacy on the internet is dead, for young kids today geo-privacy is dying. And that while he says Life360 is not for every family, some teens find that it actually gets their parents off their back, and that the benefits of sharing their location with their parents outweigh their privacy concerns. 

Life360 is just the beginning

Where it starts to feel a little like the Jetsons and that we’ve been propelled into a future we’re not sure how we feel about yet, is in the fact that Life360 is on the forefront of smart homes, wearable devices and all types of automation and connected life. Can you imagine a world where as soon as everyone leaves home for the day, the lights will go off, thermostat will turn down and security system be armed? You will even be able to give Grandma temporary access to your home when she comes for the weekend since she’s already in your family circle. 

Where do you stand?

At this point maybe you’re wondering if all this technology is too much? You’re probably weighing the pros and cons of having access to this kind of family info and connection instantly at all times. Well, with Life360 and numerous other kinds of hard and software already on the market and in development, now is a good time to think with yourself and talk with your own family about your thoughts on this level and type of connection. When you sit down for dinner with your kids or spouse ask them what they think, what the benefits and concerns would be and be ready for what technology is bringing to your family sometime very soon.

The Girl Scout Cookies Have Gone Digital

The Girl Scout Cookies Have Gone Digital

It’s that time of year. The time when you reach into the freezer only to find that you have run out of Thin Mints (gasp!). Well have no fear, the Digital Girl Scout cookie is here! As I walked the show floor at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in a hunt for the most exciting advances in technology for the family, I came across the youngest and cutest exhibitors the show has ever seen. They were at the Girl Scouts booth, and once I got talking with the Girl Scouts I learned that they weren’t just cute, they were articulate, enthusiastic, and on the cutting edge of tech initiatives for kids, or in this case, for girls.

What were the Girl Scouts doing at the CES show you ask? They were launching the “Digital Cookie” – a brand new way for Girl Scouts to sell cookies, you guessed it – online! Several things struck me about this new program both technically and in terms of the Girl Scout mission. For the Digital Cookie campaign, the Girl Scouts have been equipped with their own websites which they run and customize (with parent approval) and with mobile apps to streamline the cookie buying experience when they sell in person.  The website allows Girl Scouts to send a link to friends and family who don’t live in their immediate geographic location to invite them to buy cookies online.  And, since they will still be doing their trademark selling door-to-door and at your local supermarket, they can use the app to walk you through the experience on their iPad or mobile device which will allow you to pay by credit card and then receive the cookies in the mail within a week!

What this all means is that you indeed do still have to know a Girl Scout (or know someone who knows one). But they’ve thrown you a bone with the Android and iOS apps to find the closest council or cookie sale location or even use this handy cookie locator link. What’s interesting about this initiative is that they didn’t just put the cookies online for you to buy online just like anything else, which would have risked nearly taking the Girl Scouts out of the equation which would lose the magic of the nearly 100-year Girl Scout cookie history. To the contrary – they have given the girls the modern tools to maximize the skills they can learn and impact they can have in their cookie sales of which all proceeds go back into their local council and to the causes that the girls themselves choose.

Here lies the beauty of this campaign. The Digital Cookie campaign has both gone high-tech and maintained its personal touch and girl-empowering mission. Often when things turn digital the personal touch and charm of the whole experience can dissolve. What’s unique here is the fact that tech is being plugged in to make both the learning experience for the girls and buying experience for the consumers quicker and easier, but the interaction between Girl Scouts and cookie lovers everywhere remains in tact.

In fact, this initiative is allowing Girl Scouts to learn more skills than ever. When I spoke with Kelly Parisi of the Girl Scouts, she told me that the Girl Scouts runs the largest financial literacy program for girls in the world. And with that ideal of empowering girls with life skills in mind, they used this initiative to incorporate even more skill building. Girl Scouts can now add to their tool kit experience in money management, business ethics, decision making and more. Indeed when I talked to the charming Girl Scout Malaysia, she told me she felt she was learning both money management and people skills. She said this was definitely helping her to feel comfortable talking with people and reaching out to new people and I can vouch that she did a great job at that! Listen to my conversation with Malaysia here:

Kelly elaborated and said that the older Girl Scouts (Brownies and above) are even learning more advanced skills such as e-marketing, online customer relations, and even use of a dashboard where they track their goals against their orders. These are undoubtedly important life skills the girls are getting hands-on experience with. Listen to my conversation with Kelly here:

I think it’s safe to say that this is certifiably the most exciting thing to ever happen to the Thin Mint.  So with that, I wish you all a Happy Girl Scout Cookie Season!