top of page

Duty of Care In an Age of Digital Illiteracy

Updated: Aug 9, 2023


An AI-generated image of a book lying open in front of another book open on its side with a page that looks like the interior of a computer
Midjourney: a printed book with pages like a computer screen

There’s a new illiteracy epidemic that threatens a population we care about deeply.

But it’s not the ability to read. And it’s not affecting our children. In fact the literacy skills I’m referring to some kids have in spades. It’s their grandparents who are at risk. And the epidemic they’re faced with is one of digital illiteracy – the ability to use, manage, understand and assess technology.


The crisis of senior technology literacy is not unknown. So much the opposite, it’s become a joke. We roll our eyes about their inability to understand things that have never once been explained to them. We’re annoyed when they ask us for help but can’t use our instructions because they lack so many layers of foundational understanding.


A comic of two older women standing over a grave. One says to the other, "IN ORDER TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT. HE FIRST HAD TO UPDATE HIS OPERATING SYSTEM. I, DOWNLOAD AN APP, GET A USERNAME CHOOSE A PASSWORD, LOG IN TO A HEALTH PORTAL, NAVIGATE TO MESSAGES AND WRITE HIS DOCTOR…THEN IT WAS TOO LATE."
Credit: unknown

And being Baby Boomers, they enjoy little sympathy in popular culture. “Damn Boomers,” the sentiment goes, “they created this hateful world of wealth concentration and inequity! Maybe if we just ignore them long enough…”.


That may feel valid to some. But they’re also our parents and grandparents.


Every past generation of humanity has felt a collective duty to care for the generations that preceded them – to support them in their latter years to live as comfortably as possible, including them in the rearing of children, so as to help carry the load of raising the future while passing on the knowledge and lessons of the past. But something is different now.


Perhaps our busy lives mean we can hardly afford the attention they need, because we seem to be servicing our duty of care at the lowest acceptable level. The burden of our parents’ needs feels extraordinary, because unlike previous eras where parents understood the world their children operate in, many of our parents lack even the most fundamental skills needed for daily life. We feel like it’s all too far gone to begin solving. And few good solutions seem to be available.


And while the challenge of helping them get up to speed sometimes seems too taxing to tackle we’ll only create headache and regret if we fail to act.


Our parents lived at such an extraordinary and unique time in human history. The industrial capitalist ways of the 20th century were well established when they were born. And then they lived through progressively accelerating change like no generation previously had seen within their lifetime. They were keeping up, driving it all for awhile. But then the PC, then the internet, then the smartphone, and they were lost.


Who could there possibly be out there to help them? Who could design a real and effective solution for technology literacy? Could it be their kids, the last and only generation that will ever be able to understand both the world they knew and the technology they need to so desperately learn to use?


Tell you what, it better bloody well be us, because they’re going to be with us for a long time. And their longevity is going to cost us a lot of money – even more so if they continue to be helpless with technology. And pretty soon we’ll have another problem for the first time in human history: within the next 15 years there will be more of them than there are children in the world.

3 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page