We Took Grandpa’s Keys Away. Now We Have To Take His iPhone.

on July 22, 2013

Is there any more magical device than the iPhone? With this amazingly light, utterly beautiful device, we can call and text, email, video chat, play games, watch television, read the great books of history.

We tweet and Facebook. We buy and sell stocks. We set our home alarm, monitor our blood pressure, pay our bills – all with a few swipes of our fingers.

Perhaps this is simply too much power to possess by someone on the verge of senility.

Some of us have already had the discussion over taking away a parent’s car keys. Soon, we may all need to decide if we should take away their iPhones, iPads, Kindles and Androids.

The very technology that connects them with the world, with their grandchildren, that entertains and enlightens them, may – regrettably – become more than they can properly control.

Forget Nigerian email scams, what of FaceTime video scams? Will your aging mom or dad accept calls from anyone? Might they give away – to that friendly man on the screen – their banking information? Their Social Security number?

Will your father or grandmother, say, in their current mental state, tweet pictures of themselves – to Facebook or Twitter – that are entirely inappropriate?

Who will they text? Will your daughter in high school be troubled by the increasingly irrational emails her grandmother is sending her?

Will grandpa leave the device open, allowing hackers complete, unfettered access?

That Zynga game that your dad spends so much time with – will he spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on in-app upgrades?

Your mother has repeatedly posted embarrassing information about her adult children on Facebook. How do we make her stop?

How will we take away our dad’s iPhone, or our mother’s iPad?

How do we initiate this conversation?

How do we cut off our loved ones from connectivity and all the joy it offers? These are difficult questions but we may have to face them.

Tech companies are designing smartphones and tablets to make it increasingly easier to connect with search, the web, friends and family. Should we demand tech companies also build devices that are harder to use – at least for some?

Is it right – or necessary – to require Apple, for example, to build in a set of “anti-accessible” controls such that we can limit the functionality, use and time our parents and grandparents spend on their devices? Will Silicon Valley create a start-up that uses biometrics, for examples, or other identity tools to ensure a device is “locked down” when we are not around, or that only the “good” gets through, and no bad can get out?

It seems that tech companies, from Samsung and Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook, ought to bear some responsibility to ensure that the powerless elderly aren’t handed a truly powerful device without any consideration as to the potential harm it may cause.

With smartphone or tablet in hand, everyone and everything becomes instantly accessible, all over the world. The frightening corollary: Everyone and everything now has instant access to your parent’s (virtual) front door. At some point, you may be forced to take away the keys – for their own good.

You should not have to undertake this rather depressing familial obligation all on your own.

Image courtesy of ThinkProgress