Kevin Treu, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science at Furman University, has given seniors the basics of social media and communication through technology at a class offered by Furman University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The class covers Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, as well as blogging, podcasts, Skype, Snapchat and more.

Treu said grandparents will need to stay current to keep up with the happenings of their grandchildren. Email and – at least to some extent – Facebook and Skype are seen by youth as the purview of their parents.

“You have to go to where the younger generation is,” he said. “The grandparents who want to strike up email conversations with their grandkids – that’s not going to work.”

Instagram and Facebook can provide a rich format for connection, Treu said, where photos and videos can keep families connected. For those new to social media, Treu said the sites can be a safe way to connect.

“All of them have very extensive and rigorous privacy settings that you just have to learn,” he said.

For example, users can set up family groups in Facebook to make those most important people their lives the most prominently featured on their pages.

“If you want to share things, you can share them in a completely secure way,” Treu said.

A generation more experienced with visits and phone calls may need to adjust to the mentality of those who have never known a time without the ability to instantly share their lives online.

“The young generation believes that when they share something about themselves on social media, they have shared it with you,” Treu said.

Treu said young people are mystified when a grandparent doesn’t equate a Facebook post with directly and personally providing an update. To them, they are one and the same.

“They say, ‘I did share it with you,’” Treu said. “That’s a mentality change that older and younger generations have to understand about each other. They younger kids aren’t being selfish. They aren’t ignoring you. They think they are sharing it with you.”

Communicating with grandchildren who are too young for social media is as easy as using Skype or FaceTime to video chat.

“It’s an app to see the kids grow,” Treu said. “You can have group conversations. What a special thing to be able to see them when you are talking with them.”

For iPhone users, FaceTime is as easy and as portable as a phone call.

“Especially with Facetime, you are meeting them where you are,” Treu said.

No matter what form the connection takes, Treu said technology can be a gift that brings generations together.

“Grandparents have far more opportunity to be a part of the lives of their young relatives than ever before,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of the technology. All of my experience has been that the children of older adults are thrilled to connect this way.”

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