Lucky kids get to spend extra time with their grandparents during the summer. But what happens to those relationships when school starts and the schedule gets crowded?
For grandparents who are willing to stretch a little, the computer can be a powerful ally in building close, ongoing relationships. If you live in the same town and have the skills, consider setting up equipment and enlisting the kids to do a little training with their grandparents. For long-distance grandparents, think about giving a gift certificate for an Internet class at the local senior center or hiring a guru for an afternoon. The AARP website (aarp.org) also has helpful articles introducing seniors to new technologies.Helping a grandparent master just one of the skills listed below is likely to strengthen the connection between generations.
Send a Message.
Many grandparents are now acquainted with e-mail, so it seems like an easy way to tell a child “I’m thinking about you.” A surprising number of kids, however, never even open their e-mail. Instead, introduce grandparents to instant or text messaging. Setting up IM is easy and free, and learning IM lingo is fun at sites like lingo2word.com.
Use Webcams — With Caution.
Webcams are mini video cameras that can be attached to a computer. The advantage: Grandchildren can see grandparents and vice versa, a special treat when kids are little and changing every week. The disadvantage: Predators often talk preteens and teens into using webcams cameras to make compromising videos. Be sure the camera-enabled computer is in a main room of the house where you can supervise its use.
Create an Online Album.
Even technophobic grandparents will enjoy a digital photo frame set up to display a continuous slideshow of digital pictures. Or create an online photo gallery at one of the many photo-sharing sites out there. Before signing up, be sure the site provides password protection so the pictures are visible only to invited guests.
Generations of kids have learned to play checkers, rummy and other classic games in the company of grandparents. Point them to sites like itsyourturn.com, where players sign in so they can play only with each other.
Build a Blog.
A grandparent trying to keep up with grandchildren in several places may discover blogging is a perfect solution. At sites like xanga.com and multiply.com, seniors can post messages and encourage grandchildren to respond with comments of their own. Not only does this keep grandparents connected, it may build bonds between cousins.
Grandparents who become informed about the Internet can often back up parents by talking to kids about what they do online and reminding them of safety rules. Although technology won’t ever be a substitute for curling up in a grandparent’s lap to read a favorite book or sharing a freshly baked batch of cookies, wired relationships do have their own unique rewards.
Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Bowie, Calvert and Prince George's counties and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Carolyn Jabs, M.A., has been writing about families and technology for over a decade. She is the mother of three computer savvy kids and can be reached at growing-up-online.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.