Lucus Eques wrote:My impression is that their brains simply haven't developed the metaphorical wiring yet that relates the actions of the mouse and keyboard with what they see on the screen — a kind of hand-eye coordination. Would it help if they played video games? Seriously, would that help?
Nope. They'd just be calling you to explain game mechanics.
I remain deeply suspicious of the whole "digital native" concept. I myself ought to be borderline but I have no reason to believe I speak digitese with any ancient accent, and just recently we mourned the passing of a man in his 80s who had no difficulty with computers, either. Indeed, some of our last email dealt cogently with the pros and cons of streaming vs. downloading audio content via a web server.
Dealing with computers requires a change in people's habits of thought — a trainable skill. Here are the fundamental rules of computers —
- computers suck
- no two computer programmers think the same
Two things follow from this. First, anyone who comes to a computer thinking of it like an appliance (i.e., is under the false impression computers are reliable) is going to be in trouble every time anything the least bit unexpected happens. This is the problem with recipes, to say nothing of how they age over OS upgrades. Second, because the programmers of your tools had no way to predict everything people want to do with their computers, any interaction with computers is an inherently exploratory
Most of us who count as digital natives had plenty of time to completely screw computers up, for the most part without serious consequences. Many older people came to computing as adults in a work context, where screwing up would cause problems. Being able to safely mess something up remains a good way to learn about computers. We have several machines at my place of work that exist entirely to be broken.
If you can convince your parents it's worth the time, I'd find some way to get them a junker machine to just go wild with. Give them a chance to mess things up without losing anything important. Second, spend some very serious time instructing them in ways to undo
actions — undo options in Edit menus, copying files before doing something novel to them, how to use Spotlight to find strays, etc.
Regarding Lex's suggestion, the newest versions of iChat will let you get remote viewing and control of someone else's Mac desktop.