Calling All Digital Natives

April 1, 2022 by Eileen Wirth

This must be the Age of Aquarius!

The White House has asked TikTok artists to craft messages for the propaganda war against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. TikTok? Seriously? This isn’t your grandfather’s CIA!

This innovative approach also suggests an important service that you digital natives can offer people in your communities on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Translate what you are talking about and teach them how to use programs and platforms more current than Facebook. Just remember that to speakers of Old People English, you are using a foreign language that you will have to patiently translate. 

Start by asking older relatives or friends if they would be your guinea pigs in learning to teach tech skills to people over 60. They’ll be so happy to hear from you that they might even feed you. 

Ask them what they’d like to learn and teach them. You might be surprised how basic their wants are – things like using the GPS app on their cell phone even, or just some of the more common apps and what they will do for you. No matter how slow they seem, they aren’t stupid – they just came of age when there were just three TV networks and you used a knob to change the channel. 

When you’re ready to go public, offer to do a program on upgrading tech skills for your local public library or volunteer as a troubleshooter for people having problems using the library’s public access computers. Virtually every public library in the country offers such access and might welcome such help. Ask your older contacts if they know a librarian or call the library’s reference number to get the name of the tech services librarian. 

If you enjoy public speaking, offer to do programs for local Rotary, Kiwanis, and Optimist Clubs as well as church groups and community centers. These places all have meetings that are looking for programs and speakers. Doing a couple is likely to generate more invitations. 

You might form a technology team with your friends and offer your services around your city – the possibilities are endless.  

A final note: have fun with your audiences and ask them about their youth. Remember that today’s grandparents were the cool kids of the 1960s who were active in the civil rights, peace, and women’s movements. They can tell you about their adventures in the era when the “Age of Aquarius” was a song in Hair.

Eileen Wirth

Dr. Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and is an author specializing in Omaha history. She was a reporter at the World-Herald and a PR Writer for Union Pacific before joining Creighton in 1991. Eileen’s books include The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Historic Omaha Houses of Worship and From Society Page to Front Page. She is on the board of History Nebraska and a member of the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Women’s Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Omaha Press Club Hall of Fame. She also has been active in numerous groups particularly the Omaha Public Library.

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