How to Create an IT Care Package for Your Tech-Challenged Parents

You have successfully survived 18 consecutive years living under the same roof with your parents and are now officially beginning life on your own as a college student. Huzzah! But before you finally blaze a trail into your own brave new world, you need to think about your parents’ IT needs.

While it might seem crazy, a full 20 percent of American adults don’t use the Internet at all, according to a recent article in the New York Times. If you’re lucky, your parents might know how to send an email but chances are they have no clue how to secure their wireless network or even any idea that they should.

You’ve had a tablet and a smart phone from birth. What seems like a no-brainer to you is a complete mystery to your parents. The best way to start building a good IT care package is figure out exactly what your parents are going to need IT for while you’re gone. Two good ways to do that are by category (communication, entertainment, business, etc.) or by device (phone, tablet, laptop or desktop).

Once you’ve made a list of your parents’ IT needs, the next step is creating a guide with various walk-throughs. There are several ways you can go about this:

  • Use tutorials. Both Apple and Microsoft have a tutorial for just about everything. Introduce your parents to the wonderful world of instructional videos. Google has a fantastic, fun and free resource at that makes it easy to email your parents exactly the videos they need. Speaking of email…
  • Send emails. If your parents can open an email, you have a big advantage. Create a simple subject line that will make your email easy to find such as “How to Print Photos” or “How to Take a Screenshot,” and simply put the instructions in the body of the email. This will make for a quick and easy reference.
  • Make it a Mac. If you can, set your parents up with a Mac. They are renowned for being intuitive and user-friendly, as well as being secure. Also consider leaving your parents with a tablet computer if they are truly abysmal with tech. Tablets are extremely easy to use and are great for simple computing tasks such as email and photo sharing. An iPad is great for beginners or even a Kindle Fire is ideal, especially if your parents are avid readers.
  • Go old school with books. Use a medium your parents are familiar with — paper and ink. There are a wide variety of books for the computer-illiterate that will not only help your parents figure out their computer, it’ll do it in a way they’re comfortable with. If they have a sense of humor, you can always give them a copy of “Computers for Seniors for Dummies.” Or, try “Is Thing Thing On?” by Abby Stokes as a great alternative.
  • Leave a list. Again, break out the paper and ink and write a good old-fashioned, straightforward list of basic IT tips. At the very least, write down instructions on viewing those tutorials and emails you’ve sent.
  • When in doubt, Skype. Even if you’ve left the world’s best IT care package, chances are at some point your parents will have an issue you can only address face to face. Use Skype’s screen sharing feature to come to the rescue from the comfort of your dorm.

These steps should ensure your parents are left with a basic working knowledge of Internet Technology. However, there are no guarantees you won’t be getting texts worthy of “Damn you, Autocorrect!”