iPad setup for Grandma and Grandpa
May 7, 2015 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I want to send and iPad to my grandparents for FaceTime and email. They are not tech savvy, and I want to make this as easy for them to use as possible. They don't have internet access, so I will be adding them to my family AT&T plan. Snowflakes inside.

I live in a different state and I can't see them very often and I can't be their tech support. They are not very mobile, and can't afford to spend any money whatsoever. I have a ton of cousins, and there will probably be children playing with the device. I would like to be able to control the following:
• The iCloud account (in the event it is stolen, I would like to be able to track and report it missing)
• The data usage (it's going to be on my plan and I want to make sure I don't get any surprises on my bill)
• Purchases made on the account (If I have to use a credit card to set up the account, I want to control what is purchased)
• Access to streaming video (I have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I'd like to allow them to watch things, as long as I can restrict the data usage and keep them from affecting my account.)

The family controls assume that the account is for a child. How is this going to impact their interactions with the device? Is it going to be patronizing? Will there be language referring to their "parent"? The account setup asks for a birthday and implies that things change once the user is over 13. What changes exactly with a 'child' account with an adult's birthday? Do I have to tie my credit card to this? Can I set it up with a re-loadable debit card instead?

I want to give them as much autonomy with the device as I can, but again there are like 30 great-grandchildren and I want to prevent one of them going on a shopping spree, or changing the configuration even a little. Thanks for any suggestions or experiences you may have.
posted by domo to Technology (11 answers total)
Just picking up on one of your points, "not tech savvy" covers a wide range of abilities and you may be making life difficult for yourself (or whoever else is giving them technical support) if your grandparents are truly technically inexperienced.

I would recommend not allowing kids free access to the ipad unless your grandparents are comfortable with clicking buttons/icons/links and understand the concepts of "the internet" and "apps". Can they cope if the ipad is left in an unfamiliar state by a visiting child (e.g if the child leaves an unfamiliar app running)? Can they cope with app icons being moved around on the screen, or new icons appearing (which often happens when iOS updates)? Are they comfortable with the concept of data usage when accessing via a phone plan?

In any event, I would recommend ensuring there is at least one technically adept person who lives nearby who they can turn to if things get confusing (for example, when an unfamiliar message or prompt appears on the screen). Make sure that person agrees to help.
posted by oclipa at 8:59 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That is a very good point, oclipa. As far as I know, they have never interacted with a computer before. My father lives nearby and would be able to help periodically, but I do not want this becoming a full time job for him.
posted by domo at 9:07 AM on May 7, 2015

Listing them as a child on your account means that they cannot purchase anything without your permission. It's fabulous and not at all disrespectful. If they don't like it, they can disconnect from your account and set up one of their own with their own credit card.

I would hold off on adding Amazon Prime because if they have the password, anyone can buy anything from it.

At&t allows you to check your data usage and turn off someone's data on your plan. I do this often with my son, when he hits his share for the month. It's easy to turn off and back on again. You could turn it off when you know problem cousins will be visiting and turn it back on again when they leave, all from your own state. They will have to turn the iPad off and on again for it take effect so they will have to be in on it and know how to turn it on and off.

Remember to load overdrive on there and show them how to check out library books and increase the font size.

You might come out ahead just getting an ipod touch and asking their neighbor if they can use their wifi for this limited interaction. Having it just for facetime would simplify everything and not make it so cool for the grandkids. It's been my experience that only tech savvy, gadget happy older people enjoy watching movies or videos on tablets. Most of them prefer their regular television. I've sat with my mom many times, watched her take careful notes, and she still stays confused as to how to use her iPad and kindle fire.
posted by myselfasme at 9:22 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Unless you have an amazing plan, I would assume that streaming video usage (Netflix, Amazon Prime, or even Facetime without wifi, I would assume) is going to cost a lot in terms of data.
posted by raisindebt at 12:17 PM on May 7, 2015

Response by poster: I have a 30GB family plan with one month of rollover data. Our heaviest month of usage in the last 8 months has been 20GB. As long as we don't have two crazy months in a row, it should be ok. I am able to manually turn off data for any device on my plan. I would like that to be automatic at 10GB, but I don't know if that's possible.
posted by domo at 12:57 PM on May 7, 2015

I would be nervous about this, because I think it will turn into either a big tech support job for someone, or will go unused. This is just based on my experience with my grandmother, who is totally not tech savvy but more so than what you're talking about (she does have a computer and uses it for word processing and email). For example, we got her a portable DVD player to watch movies, and even that was too complicated for her to use. She would have no chance/endless frustration with something like Netflix.

As it is, the current tech support she gets is: I monitor her (senior friendly) email account and troubleshoot from afar. My dad, who is local, provides significant on-site tech support for things like her icons getting moved around the screen, computer updates, not remembering how to turn the computer on, and other random computer weirdness. Once or twice a year, we end up hiring some local computer tech folks to clean up weird issues/settings she has somehow changed (mostly because we aren't experts and don't want to deal with it -- obviously a family member could do this part too).

What I would maybe try in this case is to play around with your iPad with them sometime while you're local and try to gauge both their ability and their interest. Something I've learned with my grandmother is that there are many tech things she just does not WANT to learn. The way she's done things in the past (i.e. phones to communicate, watching TV on the TV, etc.) is just fine and she doesn't want to invest the effort to change. And that is perfectly fine and valid and should be respected. There are other things she has worked with and learned because she personally saw the value (email is one of these). But she had to see the value rather than us telling her it was there.

The other benefit of an in-person trial is that you can test out whether the AT&T signal is even good enough for Facetime. My experience is that without wifi Facetime is often very slow, buggy, and freezes a lot. I predict this will upset an older, non-techy person even more than an average person (for whom it is also SUPER ANNOYING). If the network isn't good enough where they live, then that's good to know before investing.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:17 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good point. I should ask my brother to go visit with his iPad to gauge their interest. I guess I have been really enjoying FaceTime with my Dad since he got his iMac and I wanted to connect with them in the same way.
posted by domo at 1:37 PM on May 7, 2015

Best answer: If your dad (and brother??) is local, could he just include your grandparents sometimes in Facetime sessions? Or at least set it up when visiting and then let you guys chat while he goes off and does some other task? This seems like a nice way to connect without creating a host of additional issues. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:43 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: They are both local, but they don't visit often. My brother is a truck driver and my Dad is currently selling his house and buying another, partly to be closer to them. He is currently 45 minutes away (with traffic, more like an hour and a half) and moving 15 minutes away. Maybe I should just give them the money I would have spent and call more often.
posted by domo at 1:49 PM on May 7, 2015

This is a really nice idea but I'm going to chime in with those who say that "not tech savvy" probably means the iPad won't get used or it'll be a huge tech support issue for someone else in your family.

My mother-in-law, about the same age as your grandparents, never ever used a computer. She took some interest in our iPads/laptops so my husband got her an iPad. It's been almost a year now and I still have to walk her through SO MUCH every time I see her (about once or twice a month). Like, basic stuff we all thought would be fairly easy. I mean, you just touch stuff on the screen! How hard can it be? Actually, pretty hard for someone with literally no experience at all with computing, never mind tablet computing.
posted by cooker girl at 5:12 PM on May 7, 2015

Response by poster: Follow up:

A few months after this, I did go ahead and get them an iPad. It has made my grandmother very happy. My grandfather complains that she spends all day on it, though. She uses it to log into Facebook and keep track of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loves it. I have added the iPad to our family sharing, so she sees our family photos as well. Technology problems have not been an issue so far, *knocks on wood*.
posted by domo at 10:17 AM on December 8, 2015

« Older Curious about a hypothetical situation   |   Where can I find a library of Macros for Excel and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.