Adventures in Tech Support

In 2014, I got my parents their first devices; they were now equipped with two shiny new iPad Airs, ready to experience all the wonders that technology had to offer!

It’s a great big world out there, so we started small. First, I showed them how to navigate to the shared photo album so that they could view photos and videos of Lily (my niece, their granddaughter) at any time. Three years later, Dad discovered on his own that he could post comments. 😆

It’s been slow going, but over the past 6 years we’ve covered:

YouTube. “This isn’t your video? But you know this person?”

FaceTime. Yay, video chats with a (then) toddler who has no interest in video chats!

Google Maps. “Wow, that’s your grandmother’s building in China!”

Google Translate and iTranslate. No more confusing and inelegant linguistic gymnastics to try to explain a word or concept in another language. (Huge shoutout to iTranslate for supporting Cantonese for years!)

eBay. This was my least favorite. Dad was lovingly and generously trying to get nice designer gifts for family and friends back home in China, but at slightly discounted prices. Little did he know, people lie online! I cannot count the number of counterfeit items I received and had to return during his eBay phase.

YouTube comments. “Did you know you can view and leave comments on Youtube? People can be wild!” Oh dear. …Hey Siri, how do you say “Trolls” in Chinese?

Charles Schwab. Dad has always enjoyed learning about companies and investing a little where possible. Until a few months ago, he would call Schwab’s automated phone line to make the occasional trade. This was inefficient and costing him money, so I got him set up on the app. Initially, I was hesitant given his inexperience with technology (e.g., “I meant to buy 10 shares, not 100!”), but so far so good.

FaceTime again. This time, Mom wanted to know how to initiate calls. After walking her through it several times one afternoon, I suggested writing down the steps so she could refer back to it later. “Nah, I’ve got it!” The next day, I received a text message from her. Plot twist: she doesn’t know how to text! The text simply contained my phone number — it was clear that this was a failed attempt to FaceTime, and she had not gotten it.

So many concepts like logging in, usernames, passwords, copying, pasting, and text fields. The first time Dad got signed out of an app, I tried to explain how he could sign back in over the phone, thinking it’d be pretty straightforward… nope. Take a moment to consider how you’d explain this to someone who has never signed in to anything, ever. Concepts aside, for us, it involved going over:

  • What/where/how to press.
  • Tapping vs. pressing the screen.
  • Characters (like *, ^, @, ) that I don’t know how to say in Chinese.
  • Text fields. Take the screen below as an example; Dad had no idea that he could (and was supposed to) enter information into those white areas on the screen.

Icons. When trying to guide Dad to a specific place on an app, I asked him to click on the thing on the bottom of the screen that looks like a bell, or the one that looks like a person. “I don’t have those. I have a hat, and ummm…” We’re all accustomed to icons that look like these and what they represent, but Dad with his new-to-technology eyes, was stumped:

Wifi. For years, their internet would go down randomly and for extended periods of time. “The internet and phone weren’t working all last week; it must be because of the weather or because there were too many other people online.

The worst part: I had no idea until way after the fact — after they’d been without internet and phone for days or even weeks — because they didn’t want to “bother” me. I installed a mesh network a few months ago, and I’m so grateful that I can use an app to confirm that their wifi is working and speedy. (Thank you so much Eero!).

Needless to say, it’s been a slow, bumpy journey, but now some basic tech is part of their day to day lives, and I’m so grateful. They’re a little more connected and autonomous, and have a slightly better understanding of the very significant and impactful advancements we’ve seen so far in their lifetime.

…What should I show them next?

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