How to Teach Older People to Use the Internet

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The Internet offers an amazing wealth of information but sometimes older people miss out on that because they don't understand the technology. With a little time and patience older people can be taught to surf the Internet like a pro. Here are some great suggestions for teaching that older person in your life how to expand their horizons, keep in touch with friends and family online, and enjoy the Internet.

  • Explain the browser. A good analogy for explaining an Internet browser to older people is to liken the Internet to a road and the browser to the car you choose to drive as you explore that road. While older people may feel more comfortable sticking with Internet Explorer simply because it's the default browser, it's never a bad idea to introduce them to the wonders of Firefox or Google Chrome. They just might like the way they handle the open road of the Internet.

  • Help them choose, download and install anti-spyware and anti-virus programs. Plenty of such programs are available but a great option for older folks on a budget is to look for free online programs. Spybot Search and Destroy and AVG Free are two of the many free options that protect a computer from spyware and viruses.

  • Search a term on the Internet to show them how it's done. How and where a search is done on the Internet is the difference between a satisfying browsing experience and a world of frustration. Make sure your grandparents or older friends know where to find what they're searching for on the Internet. Google is the obvious choice due to ease of use and accessibility, but people-powered search engine Mahalo is additionally helpful as it cuts through the spam to compile useful links and information on search terms.

  • Teach the wonders of e-mail by helping an older Internet user set up an e-mail account. If Microsoft Outlook proves too difficult your grandparents or older friends to master, you might want to consider helping them set up an email account with one of the many free e-mail providers on the Internet. Yahoo! and Hotmail are two free e-mail classics, but for maximum ease of use I would suggest setting older folks up with a simple Gmail account.

  • Show them how to shop safely online. Older folks will appreciate these reasons to shop online: no tiresome running from store to store, no standing in lines, abounding great values and more. However, inexperience with online shopping and the occasional shady online merchant can make shopping online dangerous for the elderly if they aren't told what to watch out for. Lead your grandparents or older friends to trusted shopping sites like Amazon and have them bookmark them for later use. Make sure that they know to look for the Verisign, or a similar security symbol, before ever entering any payment information.

  • Introduce them to social networking. There's a wealth of social networking sites online, and while Myspace may not suit them, your grandparents or older friends may appreciate social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Tips & Warnings

  • While AVG Free virus scans will run on their own, Spybot Search and Destroy will need to be run manually every couple of weeks. Write step-by-step instructions on how to initiate and complete the scan on a sticky note and stick it to the computer.
  • Explain the dangers of phishing. Make sure your grandparents or older friends know to check a website's URL if the page looks suspicious before entering any personal information.
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