My mom called me the other day asking about Facebook. She'd heard about it from some of her friends. I think it's great that they all surf the web, email and watch videos on YouTube, but I was a little surprised when I found out that my own parents are actively part of the social networking phenomena. Soon, she'll be following me on Twitter!
Jerry Shereshewsky, CEO of Grandparents.com, chatted with us about why so much of the older generation is going digital. He wasn't at all surprised—in fact, he said the move made sense. After all, the first computer users were the business people who are today's boomers and grandparents.
"Those baby boomers (and older) who faced off with a desktop computer in the workplace in the late '80s, early '90s, and beyond will remain users for the rest of their lives," Jerry said.
Jerry told me about half of the boomers are now grandparents. Boomers make up a third of all internet users. Millions have started up profile pages on social networks like Facebook and MySpace, according to this study. Perhaps the biggest reasons they go online is to stay in touch with their kids and grandkids.
"As many as half of all grandparents have at least one grandchild living more than three hours distant," Jerry said. "That means infrequent visits. Hence, we’re seeing incredible adoption of video chat, digital exchange of pictures and videos, and even newer technologies coming soon."
Getting Grandma and Grandpa online can be a great thing—both for them and your kids! If your parents, like mine, live far away, the internet is a wonderful tool for chipping away at the distance. Photo-sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa are immensely popular ways to show mom and dad the latest snapshots. If you have a digital camera, you can easily have your little ones make short videos for relatives' birthdays and post them online. Some families even set up blogs so grandparents, grandkids, aunts, uncles, and cousins can all stay in touch.
Jerry told us a touching story of a woman who lived in New York, but had grandkids in Los Angeles and London. During the holidays, she "lit" Hanukkah candles via online video so she could pass the tradition down to her loved ones. Definitely something, I'm sure, that her grandkids will never forget.
If you find your own mom or dad going online more, show your support! You can create your own set of lifelong memories. No matter how far apart you are, it's a great way for the grandparents to get involved with the kids on a daily basis. And who knows, maybe you can write on your mom's Facebook wall the next time the little guy gets sick or you just need some special parenting advice?
Are your parents joining the digital revolution? How do you use the web to keep in touch? Join the conversation by adding a comment below and check out these nifty resources I found.
Mom’s list of fun sites:
Grandparents.com – currently offering an e-booklet of 100 free things to do with grandkids
The Flip Side – from the NY Times—what happens when your kids won't friend you?
AARP’s brand new, online community
reZOOM – news and resource site for seniors
Skype – free phone and video chat over the web