Lost in Communication: How to Connect Different Generations

Editorial contribution by Stephan Neumeier, Managing Director for Asia Pacific of Kaspersky     

The theory of generations has been a hot topic in recent years, widely spread by marketing consultants and journalists in the global media – there are more than 700 million results in Google search for the so-called ‘generation gap’. Some surveys touch upon the evidence of generational differences, while others show the similarities of human mindsets no matter their age, suggesting to focus instead on geographical or gender factors.  

Nevertheless, we all have relatives born in different decades that we spend time with to varying degrees. In times of rare family gatherings due to lockdowns, feeling connected is vitally important. And as most communication channels in the modern climate are digital, we have to take into consideration how this is perceived and utilized by people of different ages. Here are some tips to bridge this generational divide: 

1. Take care of parents and grandparents – they do need your tech support  

“I have deleted the internet”, calls your frightened grandma after deleting the browser icon. Actually, there are four-in-10 parents (41%) who call their children or other younger family members for remote IT support, while 25% of millennials admit to avoiding family members they think want tech assistance. 

This scenario shouldn’t come as a surprise. Baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, are often called digital immigrants as they grew up with pre-cellphone technologies such as radios, televisions and landline telephones. Regardless of this fact, recent research show that older generations are enthusiastic about embracing new technologies. And as newcomers they need help from people who are native in the digital world. You can provide this assistance by:

  • Helping them pick gadgets with the easiest interfaces. It should be smart but simple. 
  • Checking that internet access has been paid for, and that the apps they need – such as WhatsApp or Zoom – are installed. Give them a brief introduction or tutorial in messaging, video calling and web surfing.
  • Introducing the voice search function which will ease the use of smartphones among people with poor eyesight. Any app integrated to a voice-activated virtual assistant can make their life so much better. 
  • Teaching them safe cyber-hygiene. Do not begrudge the time to explain how to spot suspicious sites or distinguish spam and phishing from legitimate messages.
2. Millenials hate calls – myth or reality?

Gen Y are those who turn 25-40 this year. They are also widely known as millennials, as the oldest of them became adults around the turn of the third millennium. However, sometimes this generation is referred to as ‘generation mute’, with 75% of millennials avoiding phone calls because they are too time consuming, according to BankMyCell. Being the first generation ‘born with keyboards in their hands’ and quickly embracing the rise of social media, they were the first generation to experience digital intoxication

Many millennials have to be accessible to other people for most of the time, as now they are considered the largest segment of the workforce with 61% of them working from home, full or part time. That is why millennials may seem more protective in terms of their personal space – to them, phone calls may seem invasive because they demand an instant response. Fortunately, there are some things family relatives can do for their closest millennials to help them build their ‘digital comfort zone’:

  • Organize a co-working space – a quiet place at home where a digital worker can concentrate and be sure they will not be disturbed by any noise.
  • Discuss a schedule with set working hours, including time for family affairs. Sometimes close relatives just need to make an agreement and clarify when they can be reachable and when they are not.
  • Respect their preference for text messaging if an instantaneous chat is required.
  • If you are that one millennial in your household, meaning you are the most tech-savvy, consider becoming the digital safeguard of the whole family. You can set a security solution, like Kaspersky Security Cloud Family, that can be installed on up to 20 devices — so even in a large family everyone should be covered.
3. Be involved in the Gen Z agenda – and they will appreciate it 

The next demographic cohort, called Gen Z or centennials, are the first who have never known a world without the internet. According to a Snapchat report, Gen Z individuals spend an average of four hours and 15 minutes per day on their mobiles with 64% of them being connected at all times. This could be the teenager in your family, who is keen on filters for Instagram or using video platforms for content consumption. 

Interestingly, while the previous generations in their teenage years showed more independence, new youngsters like to be connected with their families and show it online. This trend became especially significant during COVID-19 restrictions, when families quarantined together and kids began roping their parents into creating content. Gen Z stars started involving their parents and other siblings in pranks, as recurring characters and dance partners, making this content viral. For example, Alexa Rivera, a 19 year-old YouTuber, got nine-and-a-half million views for a video where her mother reacts to her TikToks. Here are a few ways to form a better connection with your child, through family-friendly apps like this one:

  • Talk gently about digital privacy when participating in popular challenges. Explain your feelings about appearing in public and the importance of keeping some family affairs behind the scenes. Support their creativity and self-expression while being confident that your children should separate real and virtual worlds. 
  • Create your own content with your children, making fun of familiar parent-child situations – it will be just as hilarious to your family circle, or it can bring you fame.
  • If you are feeling worried about your child’s security, make your teen’s account more private – TikTok has recently updated its parental control feature
4. Educate the youngest children on the digital safety 

The newest generation, born between early 2010s and mid-2020, is Generation Alpha. They began in the same year the first-generation iPad was released and Instagram was launched. And even though it is hard to predict how today’s kindergarteners and school pupils will behave when growing up, it is clear now that due to being widely exposed to multiple digital platforms from a very young age, they will be shaped by technology.

More than 70% of parents of a child under the age of 12 say they are at least somewhat concerned their child might ever spend too much time in front of screens. And as we explain to children how to cross streets safely, we have to make sure they know how to consume digital devices and carry out online activities with a virtue:

  • Talk to them and discuss what they are feeling about their life events. Even by sharing some daily routine aspects on a regular basis, you can build a strong connection. And should uncertain situations arise, such as cases of cyberbullying, it is then more likely that your children would come to you, bearing in mind you are always by their side. 
  • Participate in non-digital leisure and outdoor activities. It is important to be truly involved here whatever the activity you choose. Whether it is hiking, a football game or a yoga class, take your kids with you. 
  • Pay attention to their interests. Your little helper here can be a special parental app like Kaspersky Safe Kids that analyses your children’s online searching activity and manages screen time without encroaching on their personal space.

With all this in mind, the generation gap does not seem that huge. We all have some stories to share with each other via digital means – to send old family recipes, photos from children’s school competitions, big purchases, or just funny pets video compilations. And if representatives of each generation present in your family have at least a common knowledge of safe digital communications, your family connection will be strong no matter the age difference or physical distance between you. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels 

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