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How to help your parent use the internet

How to help your parent use the internet

Kerry Butters, editor for BroadbandGenie.co.uk, talks us through the various corners of the internet and shares her tips for helping your parents navigate the web.

The internet can be an intimidating place for your parents. Everything they could possibly need to find is a click away but how do they get to it? Helping them to surf the net with the same ease as you do doesn’t have to be difficult but it can take some time to master the basics.

Searchability and access to infinite amounts of information means your parent can explore and experience new things from the comfort of their own home. The internet can not only provide entertainment for the less mobile but a way of connecting friends and family that live further afield.

Here are some simple tips to get your parents started using the internet for the first time.

Picking a browser

Opening a new window for the internet may seem like a simplistic first step but it’s important for your parent’s user experience that they pick a browser that suits their needs. Depending on the device they’re using they may have Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome as their default browser.

Browsers and search engines alike may have intuitive features like predictive text in the search field or the ability to tailor information according to your parent’s location which could help inexperienced internet users by simplifying the amount of information they’re exposed to when searching for an answer.

Using a search engine

When your parent has chosen their preferred browser they can then pick a search engine to begin their internet search. Google, Bing, Ask and Yahoo Search are all popular search engines offering varying degrees of accuracy and personalisation.

Most search engines offer customised results according to user preference so it might be worthwhile spending some time with your parent updating their settings to suit the way they want to use the search engine so it returns the results they need.

The BBC has a clear guide to navigating these first steps in internet searching.

Setting up social media

While Facebook and Twitter tend to dominate the social media sphere you may find your parent prefers sit on the side-lines and experience them through you than make an account of their own. This may be because they don’t want to move their personal life online or because they don’t understand the benefits of instantly accessing other people’s life updates.

Facebook and Skype are great ways for your parent to connect with family and friends. Creating a Facebook or Skype account will require an email address after which your parent can log in and begin searching for people they’d like to keep in touch with, adding them to their account.

With Skype video calls and Facebook chat your parent will be able to enjoy the immediacy of talking to relatives as soon as they’re online - seeing them on screen providing an added sense of sociability. Facebook photo albums are also an ideal way to share family moments and memories with your parents.

Email on the go

If your parent wants to access their emails while they’re away from home it’s important to show them how to log in remotely. If you’ve set them up an online account with Gmail, BT internet etc it should be straightforward for your parent to check their email. Writing down the direct link to the log in page or perhaps bookmarking it for your parent will make it simple to sign in.

Video Streaming

While your parents may remember the days when television ended transmission at 10pm they might not be aware that they can completely customise their viewing experience via the internet.

If your parent doesn’t have Sky there are multiple video streaming services some free (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Channel 4oD) and some paid for (Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, NowTV, Blinkbox) allowing them to view entire television series and films instantly.

Free, online catch up services like BBC iPlayer offer a whole host of programmes broadcast by a particular channel that your parent can watch on multiple devices and even through their television if it has the right capabilities and an internet connection.

Listening to music

Youtube is a video streaming site but many use it to listen to playlists of their favourite music as well as discover new releases from popular artists. Your parent can use this freely without creating an account but if they wish to save videos or make their own playlists they will need to sign up.

For parents who love to listen to music new and old Spotify is a music streaming service that offers free listening to a large catalogue of over 20 million songs. They can listen to Spotify on a range of devices with an internet connection as well as offline if you parent wants to become a subscriber.

News feeds

If your parent likes to keep up-to-date by watching their favourite news programme or reading their preferred paper they may benefit from accessing news online. It’s mostly free and easily found with only a few newspapers requiring a subscription fee.

Your parent can also sign up to news feeds or email notifications offering the latest features from the news organisation of their choice sent straight to their inbox which can be invaluable for keeping up to speed with changes in the world as they happen.

Online shopping

From food shopping to finding a new outfit the internet could transform your parent’s consumer experience. For those who aren’t as mobile as they once were doing the weekly grocery shop has now become much simpler. Most of the major supermarkets offer online shopping as well as many fashion retailers all with varying delivery costs arriving straight to your parent’s door.


It’s necessary to advise every new internet user on the dangers of spam, scams, malware and phishing. Make sure your parent has decent antivirus protection and they know how to update it.

As long as they know not to click links in emails or open attachments from suspicious or unknown sources they should be safe from online tricksters. Hoax Slayer is a great resource for sussing out the latest scams if you or your parent have doubts about the origins of the communications they’ve received.

Though you may have to help your parents from time to time once they know the basics they’ll be silver surfing in no time. If you’re still concerned your parent will have trouble getting to grips with the web Google have developed a Tech Support Care Package you can send them to help things along.

Visit BroadbandGenie.co.uk to find helpful guides and the latest broadband and mobile broadband deals at the touch of a button.

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