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How To Teach My Parents Basic Computer Skills and How to Use the Internet-They're So Afraid of Technology

Updated on July 3, 2012

I'm an IT teacher and most of my students are older - usually 60+. Being afraid of the computer is very common.

You need to start them slowly. Don't try to teach them how to use the internet until they have learnt some of the basics. Trying to use the internet when you don't have the mouse under control, can't edit your mistakes and don't even know where the letters are on a keyboard is almost impossible.

The most important thing is to keep calm. Trying to teach a member of your family to use a computer is like trying to teach them to drive. I usually say to people "don't go there"!!

If you've decided to take the plunge you must learn to keep calm. I say to my students - "it isn't a competition". Everyone learns at their own pace.

Start by getting them to just use the mouse to move around the screen. Just using the mouse takes practice. If your parents are older and find using a conventional mouse hard, try a roller ball mouse instead. If you are using a laptop, older people find it really hard not to tap on the mousepad, so find themselves clicking when they don't mean to.

Next show them how to open a program - I start people off with Word or Open Office writer. Find some text and get them to start typing. At this stage - mistakes are good. If they don't make mistakes you can't show them how to correct them.

When they have a couple of paragraphs on the screen, start showing them how to use bold, italic and underline. Try one, type a few lines, try another.

Don't try to do too much in each lesson - otherwise they will get confused and you will get frustrated.

Remember - take it one step at a time. If they get frustrated, encourage them to look back at what they have learned, rather than looking forward and being depressed about what they can't do.

Once they have the mouse under control, can use the basic icons (b,i, u, font size & style, text alignment etc) and can save, open and print then they can start using the internet.

Set them up with an email address. Being able to send and receive emails is a huge confidence booster. Don't try to teach them everything about the internet at once.

Remember - keep calm. Don't rush them. They will learn much more slowly than you did. Try to make it fun. If it degenerates into a war - stop. Find them a class.

Many of my students also enjoy the computer books written for older users. You will find a range of books aimed at older users on Amazon.


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    • profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago

      My Mom is 80+. She has been on WebTv for the last 10 years and they were just purchased by another company. We had to move he to a computer but she absolutely can't master thre mouse. Any suggestions? She is losing connection with her friends. Very sad. Help...

    • profile image

      Simeon 5 years ago

      Thanks a lot, your advice will be really helpful. I loose my patience so often when im trying to teach my parents to use the computer. There is just one issue i would tips on. My dad's eye sight is very bad and he finds it very difficult to find out what is on the screen and where. So please help..:)

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      Lisa 5 years ago

      check out the Free Lessons for Your Mom and Dad at gina's channel on Youtube; 2minutecomputertutor. My Dad is learning from those.

    • profile image

      POSEIDON R 5 years ago

      Good tips. I already knew these things ( I am not bragging )but still just to make sure i don't leave any good tips. I already taught my mom how to shut down the computer. But she still keeps forgetting. (-_-)

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      Victor 6 years ago

      My dad is the worst lerner ever! I have a asus limited addition gaming computer and for the past 4 weeks i have been just trying to teach him how to use the mouse and he has still failed.... -_-

    • profile image

      Ninja 6 years ago

      I keep trying to teach my Grandmother how to use a laptop- it is so difficult, she is very apprehensive but I think that she really wants to discover what she can do on there (like talk to my intercity relatives on Skype, which is the reason I want to teach her). I think I'll be able to eventually succeed..?

    • profile image

      huubb 6 years ago


    • profile image

      Kenneth Albert 7 years ago

      WOAH! Awesome tips! THANKS!

      I'll take note of it! (by teaching slowly) as sometimes i'm quite impatient x.X

    • Joel Hawkins profile image

      Joel Hawkins 7 years ago

      Nice Hub, my parents understand a little bit. I could not get through the importance of spyware and anti-virus programs. They did not want to spend the money. So after a virus destroyed their hard-drive, they bought their new computer, and they said I was right. I'm not sure if they have purchased one yet though.

    • profile image

      Legs 7 years ago

      I have to teach my 80+ year old grandmother to use an ipad. This will help though, so thank you.

    • profile image

      Gene 7 years ago

      I am teacher my mum how to use a laptop that we got the old computer my mum hstes the mouse bit with the toch pad it esay . so now i am going to show her what the left one do.

    • mads1 profile image

      mads1 8 years ago from Viborg, Denmark

      I digg this... hehe. Old ppl :-P

    • profile image

      Navpreet 8 years ago

      I teach my mom and I taught her first the basics, dialogue boxes, how to turn on the computer, exit, minimize, and how to reconzige the 4 parts. I find that you should repeat everything because she often forgets.

    • tourmaline2777 profile image

      tourmaline2777 9 years ago from Chicago

      Good Tips! My dad is slowly working at it. My mom learned how to shut the computer down yesterday. It does take time.

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      rosetrees 9 years ago

      Shalini - your dad doesn't hate the computer. I've seen this many times - it's a defence mechanism. He's a highly intelligent, well respected man and is afraid of having to start from basics. He's afraid he won't be able to learn. That's wrong, of course, but he has to understand that he will learn more slowly than he once did.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 9 years ago from India

      Nice hub - I wish I could get my 80-yr old Dad to use it - he's a Maths Professor - but he hates the comp :(