Internet Safety for Seniors: Friending Your Parents in the Digital Age

Using technology to enjoy retirement

I’m starting a business—Casey’s School for Seniors—a social media school for people over 65. Show an AARP card and get 20% off a complete digital indoctrination course for the seniors in your life. Because you know they need it.

Educating seniors in the modern age is critical. The digital record is permanent. Casey’s School for Seniors will spare you the fallout from when your seniors go online. Each participant will receive his or her own full authorization to text responsibly and use Facebook, along with a Certificate of Internet Safety.

Casey’s School addresses the following sticky situations:

  • When your senior friends you on Facebook, posts personal letters on your wall or keeps poking people.
  • When they learn to text and never stop. Or they text five paragraph letters. And keep texting. And get mad if you don’t say “goodbye,” or “sincerely”
  • When they scan and post middle school pictures complete with mushy comments
  • When your senior forgets they have posted something and keeps reposting it so it never goes away.

An improperly educated senior is a dangerous thing. An untrained senior with a scanner is even worse. Because there are three types of seniors, Casey’s School will offer three courses:

Course for the Technologically illiterate:  This introductory course is for the safest of all seniors—those with no digital knowledge. They will dive in cautiously, and will not damage your professional reputation online. This course will include the following:

  • No, the computer isn’t broken. It needs to be plugged in at all times.
  • There are no evil forces deleting your stuff. You must save it every time.
  • Sending and receiving email and pictures of dirt-covered grandchildren.
  • Making photo albums of dirt-covered grandchildren to send to friends to show their grandchildren are inferior.
  • Receiving and reading one-way texts and emails containing instructions on when to pick up dirt-covered grandchildren for the weekend.
  • Couponing Online 101: Save a grand, go to a nice dinner.
  • Sending gifts using Amazon to save time. Spend the time doing cool things with your friends rather than making beautiful blankets and Christmas sweaters for ingrates.
  • Why Facebook is really, really evil and you should stay far, far away. You won’t like it. Trust me.

You will never have to worry about this group of seniors online. Casey’s School guarantees to scare them away from most parts of the Internet even if we have to tell them it is full of pedophiles and scam artists. You can never know who’s really behind that picture—everyone lies.

Intermediate course:  These seniors have spent careers kicking our collective behinds with Excel spreadsheets and charts, and made the graphs to prove it. They have a professional proficiency in all things Office. But no one cares, because it’s so 1980’s and it’s boring. In order to get this group into the digital age, they must master the basic tenets of social media:

  • Basic social etiquette: You want your kids to have jobs. Don’t get them fired with inappropriate comments and photos online, unless you want them moving back in and sponging off your retirement freedom.
  • If your kids are married they may want to stay that way.  Never do the following online:  Post old family pictures, or discuss the significant other you wanted them to marry.
  • Do not phone people when they post something, unless it’s an emergency. Use the comment box.
  • Be judicious in the use of the comment box. Comment when interested—don’t feel obligated.
  • Couponing 102: Save a million, travel the world. Post tons of pictures to Facebook and make your kids jealous because they paid too much for college and will be eating ramen for 20 years.

By the end of this course, you and your parents will be able to friend each other on Facebook, but you should seriously consider using privacy features to hide your Tough Mudder photos as well as the aftermath of Philly Beer Week.

Advanced course:  This course is for seniors who are totally amazed by every new technology.  Although they initially thought the iPhone was what Scotty used to beam up Kirk, they quickly stop pointing it at the TV to change the channel and are willing to learn its true potential. Once you get by the initial, “Wow, I remember when we had to dial the phone,” you have a captive audience. This will be your hipster emeritus crew. Course contents include:

  • Watching your stocks online
  • Using social media to pursue interests in retirement and not simply to pay back your kids for decades of whining.
  • Using circles, groups, and privacy features online so you can pretend to care about everyone.
  • Transferring the calendar you lose into a super-convenient Gmail calendar that never lets you forget stuff.
  • Using “calendar” to remember all the important dates—birthdays, anniversaries, etc… and looking like a rock star sending e-cards and Amazon gifts just in the knick of time.
  • Reconnecting with old Army buddies or friends who are also in the “advanced crew”
  • Buying retirement property in Costa Rica with minimal risk
  • Blocking the kids who annoy you, and sending their emails asking for money straight to spam so you don’t get stuck watching dirt-covered grandchildren wearing beautiful Christmas sweaters when you should be playing golf.

By the end of this course, you and your parents will be able to fully friend each other on Facebook. They will embrace your digital life responsibly and develop an online relationship with you as if you hadn’t ruined their life and they hadn’t dressed you ridiculously and grounded you for your first two decades. You will renew your relationship, and bring it to new levels. Congratulations.

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