Skyping with the grandkids

Grandparenting in the digital age

Author: Courtney Bonfante
Posted: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Are you connected yet? As more and more people join social net-working sites to keep in touch with loved ones, the face of communication as we know it is changing in drastic ways. Whether you see technology as a friend or foe, if you’re not taking advantage, you may be missing out on a golden opportunity to interact with your loved ones.

It took a lot of convincing to get Diane Lorusso to join Facebook. The LaGrangeville resident thought the site was just a way for kids to waste time. It took her daughter in law a good half-year of convincing before she finally caved in.

 

“I didn’t realize how valuable Facebook was,” said Lorusso, a grandmother of 12. “When you see how much you can really do with it, it’s amazing. I get to see what’s going on in my grandkids daily lives and see what kind of day they’re having. I absolutely love it.”

She’s not alone: in 2008, only 1.2% of the site’s users were over the age of 50. This year, that number jumped to 11%, or nearly 15 million people.

Social media sites, Facebook being the most well-known and well-used, enables users to keep in touch by sharing photos, videos, and news. Aside from keeping in touch with family members, Facebook also often reconnects old friends: Lorusso found a classmate she hadn’t seen in over 30 years and the pair recently got together for lunch.

Rosario “Russ” Lando has no interest in Facebook. “I tell people all the time: if they want to find me, they know where I am,” chuckled the grandfather from Fishkill. He may not use social media, but he and his large family still utilize other technologies to stay in touch. Using a webcam and video software, Lando is able to be “present” at family events and to interact with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Boston. “It’s nice, they send me videos of communions and baptisms. I never miss anything.”

Webcams are small cameras that attach to one’s computer and allow the users to see each other’s actions. Combined with instant messaging services, video software, or internet-based phone services such as Skype, webcams add a live-action element to casual conversations.

There is no question that new technologies are changing the way we interact as a society. However, as the younger generation zooms ahead in the digital world there are concerns that they may be leaving the older generation in the dust. Grandparents may have different expectations as to what constitutes quality time than their grandchildren do. Grandchildren raised in the digital age may not even realize that Grandma would much prefer a face to face visit or phone call than a comment left on her Facebook wall.

 

“There is the argument that digital technology is alienating,” said Peter Kaufman, an associate professor of sociology at SUNY New Paltz. “Social technologies are incredible: they can increase communication, particularly for grandparents who don’t live close to their grandchildren. But sometimes, these technologies can come at the expense of face to face visits.”

As with anything in life, it’s finding the right balance. But, some grandparents find that being up to date with the latest technologies that their grandchildren are using brings the relationship closer.

One grandparent who has effortlessly merged technology with real-life quality time is Ed Conroy. His granddaughter, Robyn Stipak of Newburgh, may just be the most technologically advanced toddler in the Hudson Valley.

When Conroy noticed his granddaughter’s keen interest in her mother’s iPhone, he decided to buy an iPad tablet as a present for her second birthday. “It’s a great device for kids. Kids are so capable of learning and this is the way the technology is going so we set her up with it. It’s definitely given her a leg up, especially with developing her acute motor skills.” Right now, one of Robyn’s favorite iPad pastimes is watching videos on Youtube, particularly those of Tinkerbell. She knows how to search out Tinkerbell, select a video, and add it to her favorites.

Conroy, who works with mainframe computers at IBM, will often sit with his granddaughter as she uses the iPad as a learning tool. He’s considering purchasing her an iPhone for her upcoming third birthday. “I’d like for each of us to have one. With the video capability of the iPhone, she can call and we can see her and she can show us where she is and what’s in front of her. Wherever we are, she can be with us.”

How to Skype:

Visit
skype.com

Select “Get Skype”

Select your system requirements and hit download
Click “run” to launch the setup wizard
Follow the steps in the setup wizard to complete installation
After installation, you can open Skype anytime by clicking the Skype icon on your desktop.
For the best experience with Skype, consider purchasing a webcam and headset. A headset will enhance the quality of the sound and a webcam will allow you to see and be seen while you’re catching up with loved ones.

Courtney Bonfante is a writer living in Marlboro with her husband and daughter. She is the publisher of newburghmama.com, a blog geared towards families in the greater Newburgh area.

Categories: Feature Stories

Tags: skype,grandkids,family,technology

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Reader Feedback
December 10, 2010 | 12:36 PM
 
What a fantastic article!! It truly captures the pros and cons of what grandparents are thinking in this technology era. The excitement of what this technology can bring (knowing what the kids are doing each day) and the frustration (not seeing them face-to-face). I'm Robyn's mother and she is now 2 1/2. In the six months since she has had her iPad I have already seen a growth in the amount of learning applications available to her age group. She now has an app that is teaching her how to write letters and numbers (iWriteWords). It has a fun interface that allows them to follow a bug to make the letter. My two year old is learning to write her ABCs already. I never thought I'd see the day! Aimee
 
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