For the aging population who did not have access to the word of the Internet in the prime of their life, but at present, the world around revolves around the virtual realities, the dilemma is: how much of the virtual world can they adopt? To what extent can gadgets enter the retired life, and bring unimaginable changes. It is similar to entering a new phase of life if aliens came to dominate their world. The grandparents need to be computer savvy, to be able to text to communicate with friends and relatives of the younger generation. Grandchildren don’t accept phone calls nor do they call on telephones for they are the generation that talks less but is in touch with the world upon the clouds, that is the Internet. And then when you have learned to send texts, there is the Emoji, GIF and new language that speaks with letters like “LOL, XOXO, GTG.” and so on.
Kanta, texted to Granny, sharing her frustrations of a breakup with her fiancé. Granny texted: “LOL.” Kanta: “Why are you laughing Gran? Thought you were my friend who understood my pains.” Gran texted: “I am your friend, and LOL means Love You Lot.” Kanta then sent Granny a list of the text message language in use.To your grandchildren, you are a smart one of your kind if you can manage to keep up with their world to some extent, or else it’s your loss. They love you none the less if you cannot. Their world is a fast moving one; they have to keep up with the changing world, even if they want to go back on time to say hello to grandparents, the world doesn’t pause for them. The other day, a grandson, sitting next to me on the bus was trying to encourage his grandmother at the other end of the line to use Facebook messenger, “You see the box on the right-hand side? If you find the little telephone sign and video signs? You can see and talk to me from Mexico if you click on those!” From the proceeding conversation over the phone I could feel the pressure of generation gap, much though grandmother and grandson wanted to be in touch, it was quite impossible to come to a middle ground in the handling of the technology.
Some grandparents catch up with the Internet so that they can be touch with the loved ones in other parts of the world, or catch up with entertainment that also moves on the net. Story and lullabies are changing their patterns. When the granddaughter wants you to sing a song from Frozen instead of the old, nursery lullaby, or the grandson wants stories of Spiderman and robots, grandparents certainly need to be in moving time zones. The children these days want to see stories come alive on screens. If “Ba, ba Black sheep..” is sung to them, they demand to see the YouTube video. Which is not a bad idea, but the screens have to be supervised and given for a limited time for health reasons. Recent studies reveal possible behavioral and speech problems with children who have excessive time on mobile phone. Parents are being alerted and with that comes the grandparents who babysit them. A significant challenge to the parents is how to keep the children away from screens for their good. The modern-day kids are smarter than you can imagine. In the home of the Khans, six years old Joy is told not to watch TV after bedtime, no screens two hours before sleep. Joy’s mother then settles down with her favorite network of Chopped. Joy then asks how TV watching rules are different for her. After all, Joy’s mother goes to bed at her son.
At every home, parents and grandparents have challenging times on supervising TV times to the children. There are tests on how much one knows about the negative and positive aspects of the Internet. Among the immigrant families, grandparents who are not aware of the hazards of putting mobile phones, especially smartphones in the hands of children end with serious health problems arising from microwave radiation from wireless devices. Health problems arising out of radiation exposure may range from minor to major ones. On a visit to Jackson Heights in NY, I came upon the difficulties of parenting in keeping children engaged in their apartments. In winter when staying indoor to stay warm from snow and cold, the easy way to keep children happy is to give them screen times, I-pads, smartphones or television. A grandmother was teary-eyed when the doctor told her that her grandkid’s delayed speech linked to the smartphone she had placed in the babies hand, that it may be related to microwave radiation.
For the aging population, when they have to adjust to emerging technologies, a wise way to choose is when the family as a whole sits and talks about the negative and positive attributes of the Internet. There are hundred and one things to learn about to what to accept or reject from the virtual world. It is quite impossible for a grandparent to find their ways into them and the parents too are updated about the latest finds. Showing them the shortcuts and keeping them up to date about health issues may be an excellent way to keep the family safe from unintentional misuses of our computerized world. Most health centers around the USA have patient portals through which one can keep up with the doctor; there is no need for a doctor visit if the health issues from home, the computer. But of course, the elderly at home are to move on their comfort zones, to move with times when they want to.
However, among the aging population is the universal dissatisfaction of how life is getting all about being on the machines and computers, how we are losing touch with each other in the ever-busy world. The voices that came with bedtime stories and the lullabies have lost the human touch for they come through gadgets. While grandparents and parents sigh and give up to generation changes, there’s one message for all: keep moving with life. Life forever shall remain at the crossroads of past, present and the future. Inventions are exciting, but at times it is good to step back and make decisions on what to take and what to reject. For instance, tonight watch the stars or the clouds in the sky with your grandkids instead of giving them TV time.
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA