Tami Kelley admits she's not technology savvy, but she didn't want her lack of digital skills to interfere with her connection to her 5-year-old grandson, Horatio.
Because Kelley, 58, lives in Cincinnati and Horatio lives in Vergennes, Vermont, the pandemic is keeping them apart more than usual and video chatting now plays an important role in their relationship. But to successfully connect, Kelley had to fight through a computer video system that quit working, a cellphone that refused to connect to FaceTime and the challenge of making those video chats feel engaging to Horatio.
The coronavirus pandemic has separated many families celebrating Grandparents Day on Sept. 13. That separation means technologies like Zoom and FaceTime are the way many grandparents and grandchildren interact. But sometimes those exchanges can feel awkward, or there's dead air, or grandparents struggle with digital tools.
"I'm technologically illiterate,” says Kelley, a retired kindergarten teacher. But with some help from her daughter, Kelley and husband Dave, 54, are now able to connect daily with their favorite kindergartner. It was worth the headache. “This is our special time,” she says.
For Kelley's daughter Miranda Peters, those video chats are also important. Peters and her husband are often called into virtual meetings at the same time while they work from home. The grandparents’ video calls have become an essential form of virtual babysitting.
Find ways to overcome technophobia
Many grandparents — like lots of people — find video calling intimidating. A 2014 study in the Journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology found that 24 percent of older respondents reported being afraid to use new devices. For those who aren't overwhelmed by the technology, figuring out how to keep a child's attention can be challenging.
That's why Shelby Hoefling, a wellness coach and yoga teacher based in Falls Church, Virginia, wrote the children's book Grandma's in the Phone about getting the most out of video chat apps. The book was inspired by Hoefling's calls with her 95-year-old grandmother, Patricia Hoefling, who lives in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.