Overcoming Technology Barriers

Among the things that this past year has taught us is that it’s time we focus on overcoming technology barriers. There are far too many Americans who are struggling with the technology that is being employed to allow for quicker, safer, and more cost-efficient interactions.

Like it or not, there has been an inevitable move towards virtual interactions that this pandemic has accelerated. Now we’re finding that too many people have been left behind as we forge ahead with virtual meetings, doctor visits, and benefits appointments.

But to do this, we need to better identify the problem.

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Technology Trends

Too many of us think about technology in terms of modern technology. We forget that since the 1900s, technology has included the electric stove, automobile, washing machines, and landlines, to name but a few. Modern technology really got started in the 1980s with the microwave and cellular phones, and continued into the 1990s with computers and the internet, to eventually bring us to the point where 80% of people in America are using smartphones.

Technology Trends ImageStudies show that demographic groups who historically have been slow to adopt technology have embraced it year over year since 2015, sparked by the rise of smartphones. Moreover, in one of these primary demographics, adults 50 years and older, studies show that a growing number of them are buying tablets, wearable tech, and smart home devices.

This all sounds great until we start to dig in and find that many of them are struggling with the available features and don’t fully understand the security concerns surrounding them.

It is something that I’ve experienced first-hand with my Mom, and that we here at CLARK see daily with many of our residential clients. There’s a widespread belief that some in these demographics dislike newer devices or are technologically illiterate, but that is simply not true.

When it comes down to it, these are people who have long embraced technology. The issue is that they use technologies that they find useful and resist those they don’t. Many devices offer health and wellness benefits that aren’t always immediately apparent, and as more and more everyday tasks move online, that can be problematic. So let’s look at some things that might skew that view of usefulness.

A Lack of Confidence

A challenge facing many people is that they are not confident in their ability to learn about and properly use some technologies. Terminology is a big reason for this. My Mom knows Netflix, and she can navigate to and find different channels on her Roku, but if I ask her which streaming services she uses, she’ll stare at me blankly. It’s not that she doesn’t understand how to use the technology – she just gets tripped up by the terminology.

It used to be that she’d rather tell me that she doesn’t need it than admit that she doesn’t know what it is, or worse, assume that I mean something entirely different and push it off as unimportant. By encouraging her to ask questions and taking the time to answer them, we got past that challenge.

People don’t like to feel dumb, and not understanding terminology can make them feel that way. Asking questions has always been the best way to learn.

Afraid to Break It

Another big issue stems from a fear of breaking new technologies. We can all thank the 80’s for this, back when companies rushed devices out before being properly tested or put them in flimsy plastic cases. Those of us who grew up in that era used a pencil to wind up cassette tapes after dropping our Walkman, blew into our Atari cartridges to get them to work, and accidentally erased everything from a floppy disk with a single push of a button.

How can we not feel a little trepidation at the thought of new technology?

Fortunately, today’s technology is more durable and user-friendly than past devices, and it’s easier than ever to undo mistakes.

When I brought a computer home to my Mom, she was very hesitant to use it, even down to turning the power on. Afraid to click on anything, she tentatively pushed the mouse around the screen. The best way to learn new technology, though, is to jump in and use it. I started with simple games, getting her used to using the mouse, and then showed her how to open an internet browser. Now she sends me recipes, memes, and weather updates daily – and has recently discovered zoo cameras.

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Security Concerns

Cybersecurity experts are always talking about the dangers online. For those unfamiliar with the internet, it can be a scary place. Because locking your doors won’t keep the cybercriminals out, some people simply do not want to deal with the security concerns.

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Long passwords. Two-Factor Authentication. Phishing emails. With all of the threats out there, it’s understandable. We all worry about security and privacy online, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. A good anti-virus program will keep you safe online, password managers can remember passwords for you, and three simple rules will keep scammers at bay.

  • If something seems too good to be true, it is
  • When you see a sense of urgency, pick up the phone and call
  • If you don’t know who’s contacting you, ignore them

Too Many Benefits to Resist

Technologies today make it easy to have video calls, search the internet, take pictures, record videos, play games, and so much more. Many of us are learning to use these and finding that it’s not as difficult as we thought. Between building social connections online, keeping in touch with friends and family who are not as mobile as they used to be, and taking advantage of home security and assistance tools, newer technologies have a great deal to offer to all of us. It’s just a matter of overcoming those technology barriers.

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