The Grandparent’s Guide to the Internet

You’ve seen your kids and grandkids doing it: looking up all kinds of facts on the fly, chatting with friends online, banking and booking flights, sharing vacation photos and videos.

From the sidelines, it can look tricky. Their fingers might seem to fly over the keys too fast to follow, and you have no idea how they got from point a to point b. They were born to this technology, and it’s easy for them to pick up new things quickly.

But this is all new to you, and a bit overwhelming. Everything changes so fast, with technology changing, developing, and growing obsolete in the blink of an eye. How can you possibly keep up when everything looks different from day to day?

The truth is, though the details might change, there are plenty of constants when it comes to the internet. The basic underlying skills and tools are pretty much the same as they were at the beginning. Once you master those, you’ll be equipped to find your way, no matter what details change.

And learning to use the internet is worth it. Your family wants you online: they want to be able to share photos and write to you on email and social media. They want you to be able to participate in video chats with them, so that no matter how far away they are, they can still see your face and hear your voice.

And it’s not just for them. The internet is an amazing tool that can help you with so many aspects of your life, from looking up information to satisfy your curiosity, to more practical uses like doing your banking or having groceries delivered.

In our Grandparent’s Guide to the Internet below you’ll learn not only the skills to navigate and search the web, send and receive email, chat and share on social media, and video chat with your friends and family around the world, but you’ll also learn tips for keeping yourself safe online.

You don’t have to leave the Internet to the young; there’s something for all ages. Once you’ve got the basics down, you may even find yourself teaching your grandkids a trick or two!

The Grandparent's Guide to the Internet

The Grandparent’s Guide to the Internet

You’re watching a movie with your granddaughter and you say, “That actor sure looks familiar.” And suddenly the little girl whips out her tablet computer, taps on it a couple of times, and says, “It’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt — the kid from Third Rock From the Sun. He just got married!” You know you could probably do that too. But how do you get started learning? That’s an easy one: you start right here!

How to Navigate the Web

  • To access different websites, users need a web browser (a computer program) such as:
    • Chrome
    • Firefox
    • Internet Explorer
    • Safari
  • While each browser is slightly different, they share many similarities
    • When using a browser to explore the Internet, the program launches a “Window”
      • This window is what shows the user the website they’re looking at
    • A window can consist of several tabs
      • Each tab is like a new window, in that it displays a website
      • A user can have several websites running at the same time
        • Doing this could possibly slow down the speed websites load or cause the computer to run more slowly
  • A browser can be set up so that clicking the Home icon will bring the user to their “Home” page. This might be:
    • An email provider like Yahoo!
    • A social media platform like Facebook
    • A search engine like Google
    • Any other favorite or oft-used website
  • Browsers allow users to “Bookmark” pages, giving them the ability to find those pages more easily later on
  • The “Address Bar” is the long white box at the top of a browser window
    • To access a website, users type in the website address (or “URL”) into the Address Bar
    • A web address will look something like this: “http://www.google.com
      • Modern browsers don’t usually require the “http://www.” section of an address
  • Many times, typing in a web address will prompt the browser to auto-complete the address if it is one the user has accessed before
    • If the desired website is on the list, navigate to it using the arrow keys and press the Enter key
    • Users can also click on the address with their mouse
  • The “Back” button allows a user to go to the last webpage they visited
  • The “Forward” button allows a user to move forward a page
    • This button is only useful if you have already pressed the Back button
      • Otherwise, it will be “greyed out” and not work
  • The “Refresh” button causes a web page to reload itself
    • This can be useful for a number of reasons:
      • If the page isn’t functioning as it should
      • To see the most up-to-date content

Email Basics

Email Etiquette

Here are some general tips to remember when writing email:

  • Write a meaningful subject line
    • The subject line helps the recipient know what the email is about before opening it
    • Subject lines should nei ther be too long nor too broad
      • Bad: All about our trip to Disneyland when Tippy got sick all over the Matterhorn and had to be cleaned up in the bathroom
      • Bad: Disneyland Trip
      • Good: Tippy Got Sick at Disneyland
  • Be careful with the “Reply to All” button
    • When you receive a message where you are part of a group of recipients, you have the option of replying to the sender with the “Reply” button
    • But you can also click the “Reply to All” button, which sends a message to everyone who received the original message
      • Be careful not to confuse the two
  • Break up body text
    • It can be difficult for people to read long sections of text in an email
    • Breaking up the email into small paragraphs will make it easier to read
  • Identify yourself near the beginning
    • Unless you are sure your recipient knows your email address, you should identify yourself at the beginning of the email
  • DON’T USE ALL CAPS
    • Capital letters are harder to read than lowercase letters
    • Words written in all capital letters are often interpreted as yelling
  • Think twice before forwarding
    • Many email chain letters are either hoaxes or scams

Social Media

  • Social media platforms are websites where people can do many things, including:
    • Share pictures
    • Share text or links to other web pages
    • Send and receive private messages
    • Post videos
    • Chat with people
      • Not every social media site does all of these things, but most of them do
  • They include websites like:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
  • Joining most social media sites is free and simple

How to Use Google (and Other Search Engines)

How to search

  • A search engine is a tool used to locate websites
    • Google is the most widely-used search engine on the Internet
    • Searching on Google is often called “googling”
  • To “google” something, go to
    www.google.com
  • Type search terms into the box in the middle of the page and click the “Search” button or just press the Enter key on the keyboard
  • Google (and other search engines) will use these terms to try and find relevant websites
  • Sometimes, the first few entries of a search will be paid advertisements for products and services
    • In Google, these are distinguished from regular searches by the word “Ads”
  • To go to one of the websites collected by the search engine, simply click on the link (usually in larger blue letters)
    • In order to open the website in a new tab (leaving the current tab with your search results open), right click on the link and select “Open in new tab”
  • To search for a specific phrase, put your search terms within quotation marks
    • This will let Google know you only want results where that exact phrase appears
  • To make sure search results do

    not

    include a particular word, place a minus symbol in front of it

    • For example:

      public landmarks in Arizona — “Grand Canyon”

      • That will tell Google to find pages about public landmarks located in Arizona, but not pages that discuss the Grand Canyon

How to Use Skype

  • Skype is a free voice and video calling program that allows people to talk to others through their computers — just like the video phones in

    The Jetsons

  • How to Get Skype

    • To use Skype, download and install the program from Skype.com
      • For the service to work properly, you must have access to:
        • A webcam (for video calls)
        • Internet connection
        • A computer with attached microphone and speakers, or a headset
          • Most computers come pre-installed with a microphone, speakers, and webcam
          • Skype can also be downloaded as an app on many smartphones and web-connected tablets
      • You must create a username and password to log into Skype

  • How to Add Contacts

    • Users can add contacts on Skype by entering the other person’s:
      • Skype name
      • Email address
    • Once you’ve found who you’re looking for, click the “Add to Contacts” button
      • Write a brief message to the person so that they know who you are
    • When the recipient has accepted your contact request, then you will be able to initiate calls with them

  • How to Make a Call

    • Select a person from the Contacts list and click on them
    • Click on:
      • Phone button for a voice call
      • Video camera button for a video call
    • To end a call, click on the red button
    • While on a call, users can:
      • Turn on/off their webcam
      • Mute/unmute their microphone
      • Share files
      • Share contacts
      • Send instant messages

Internet Safety Tips

  • Users should keep their anti-virus software up to date
    • This type of program will help prevent a user’s computer from becoming infected by malicious software
    • There are a number of free anti-virus programs available:
      • AVG
      • Avast
      • BitDefender
      • Malwarebyes
      • And others, but remember that they all have paid versions as well, which you may want but don’t necessarily need
  • Use a pop-up blocker to help reduce the frequency of intrusive advertising windows
    • Most browsers do a good job of limiting this
    • But for a lot more power, check out some of these:
      • AdBlock Pro
      • Ad Annihilator
      • GoGoData Toolbar
  • Be aware of common scams, especially those that target the elderly
    • Be wary of any website or email asking for money
    • Common scams include:
      • Healthcare fraud
      • Counterfeit prescription drugs
      • Funeral/cemetery fraud
      • Fraudulent anti-aging products
      • Telemarketing fraud
      • “Hot stock” tips
      • Lottery winnings
      • Dating/identity fraud
      • A “relative” or “friend” asking for money
      • More info on all of these can be found at the US FDA:
        • http://tinyurl.com/ndyrln5
  • Passwords
    • Passwords are necessary to access many resources on the Internet
    • It is important not to use common or easy-to-guess passwords, such as:
      • password
      • 123456
      • Birthdays
      • Pet’s names
    • Be wary of giving out username or password information to others
      • It is possible for people to use this information for fraudulent purposes
      • Never give out a password through email
    • Scam artists will sometimes pose as “account administrators” or something similar in an attempt to trick people into giving up their secure information
    • Some security experts have pointed out that, all things being equal, passwords are more secure the longer they are
      • To create a strong and memorable password, combine four randomly selected words
    • Mnemonic devices can make passwords easier to remember
      • For example, someone’s password could be “Barrelcar1bluemonkey”
      • To help remember this password, they might imagine a car shaped like a barrel with one blue monkey inside
        • Note: Never use an example password as your own password!
  • When shopping online, be sure to purchase from reputable websites
    • Users should learn what actions to take if they feel that they’ve been scammed
    • Can they get a refund for their money?
    • Are purchases insured?
  • Be wary when entering personal information into a website
    • Scammers sometimes create fake versions of websites
    • They use them to gather personal information from their victims, like their:
      • Phone number
      • Email address
      • Password
      • Home address
      • Social security number
      • Credit card information
    • Always double-check that the web address of a website is correct before entering information
      • Often, a padlock symbol will indicate that a webpage is secure
        • This must be the case for payment pages

Common Web Resources

There are many free online resources that serve a variety of needs, including:

  • Wikipedia (wikipedia.org):
    • The online encyclopedia
    • Consists of almost 5 million (English) articles covering many different topics, including:
      • Culture and the arts
      • General reference
      • Science and mathematics
      • History and events
        • And more —

          much

          more!
    • Keep in mind: While generally reliable, most pages are open to being edited by anyone
      • A best practice when looking up information on the Internet is to check a website’s sources
      • Where is the information coming from?
  • Weather (weather.com):
    • The Weather Channel’s official website
    • Users can enter any zip code or location and find out:
      • The current weather
      • The forecast (up to 10 days)
      • Doppler radar maps
  • YouTube (youtube.com):
    • The world’s largest collection of online videos
    • Find videos on:
      • Games
      • Music
      • Current events
      • News
      • Home videos
      • Animals
      • Arts & Crafts
        • And more
  • Snopes (snopes.com):
    • The fact-checking website
    • Type in an urban legend or “fact” to discover whether it’s true
      • For example, “Are carrots good for vision?”
    • Snopes is run by Barbara and David Mikkelson — professional writers and researchers
    • Shows the claim (Carrots are good for your vision), whether it’s true (False), and possible origins for the claim (British counterintelligence during WWII)
  • Fun websites:
    • Geezer Guff (geezerguff.com) is a website with lots of humor and information with a focus on the interests of older visitors
    • Sporcle (sporcle.com) is a trivia game website with a whole lot more creativity than

      Jeopardy!
    • Cute Overload (cuteoverload.com) offers a constant stream of images and videos of adorable animals — but may not be safe for those with diabetes
    • Chop Chop Magazine (chopchopmag.org) is geared toward family cooking, and it has a lot of great recipes
    • ElderTreks (eldertreks.com) sponsors exotic adventures for people over 50 — for when you need a break from the computer

As you can see, you don’t have to leave the internet to the young. And the truth is that fewer and fewer older people do. The internet is not hard to learn, and most people find that once they take the dive, they really enjoy it. What’s more, before long, you might be teaching your granddaughter a thing a two.

Sources

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