The right to not use the Internet

Whilst we are all keen Internet users and are happy to jump on the net to doing our banking, look up movie times, find out information on the government websites and whatever else you want to do online, there are some in the community who do not want to do this.  They prefer the old fashioned way of doing things, but it is becoming harder for them to do this as more and more is being putting online with the assumption that everybody can access it.  I think while discuss the right of people to access the internet and get their information, we need to also consider the right of people not to.

Take my mother who is in her 80s.  We have tried to introduce her to computers.   She could have learned  when I lived with her and had my computer and I tried to teach her,  but it was clear that it really stressed her.  She was given an old laptop from my sister in the hope that she might learn more but it was clear she didn’t want to and fortunately for her the laptop stopped working anyway.  She said she felt bullied into learning computers and at her age why should she have to learn something new.  I actually support her in this.  She shouldn’t have to,  but sadly she is finding it harder to access the information she needs without going online.     Her favourite newspaper The Weekly Telegraph (a UK paper for expats) sent her a letter to inform her that they were no longer printing the paper.  She could subscribe and access the online version and even get a tablet if she wanted.   Yes she could, but why should she have to.  Mum told me that she went to the cinema and didn’t get good seats because everybody else had booked them online.   She misses out on discounts from not paying bills online.  Companies have also started charging for paper bills.  Now they do take it off senior citizens’ bills but they do not necessarily make it clear.  It concerns me that she is increasingly becoming disadvantaged by not being online.    Internet services will increase whilst face to face services will decrease and make it harder for people like my mother.   A UK report suggests that by 2030 700,000 elderly people will be disadvantaged due to the internet and will feel isolated.  Ironically The Telegraph (the same paper which stopped printing my mother’s paper) states that

“A study found that a growing shift by banks, utility companies, shops and community groups to carrying out their activities on the web will leave 703,000 over 60s remaining offline at the end of the next decade in situations akin to “living in a home with no windows”. “

Now there are some good programs such Tech Savvy Seniors Queensland available, to teach them how to use computers and access the Internet.  I think it is great to see them taking on new technologies and accepting progress.  Unfortunately not all are like this and at mother’s age, I think they should have the right to decide not to follow progress if they want.


8 thoughts on “The right to not use the Internet”

  1. Thanks for sharing you blog. My mother also cannot use computer very well. But still she is trying to learn it, and now she can know how to use video chat. Every week during video chat, she always tells me what she learned during this time.

  2. Hi Elizabeth, really interesting thoughts on how older people experience with the internet. I do agree, why we have to force them who doesn’t want to learn or to deal with the internet?
    Last semester, I did a literature review about Health Information
    Seeking Behaviour of Older adults (> 65 years), unsurprisingly, the internet was not the main resources they use to seek health information. However, several articles suggest that the older people must be utilised with internet skill (digital literacy) to help the older people, when they want to find information relate to their health. I believe, there will be other easy ways to help them to keep informed without using the internet.

  3. Hi Liz,

    You are absolutely spot on when you say “they should have the right to decide not to follow progress if they want.” Its becoming very obvious that organisations are taking away the element of choice from people / consumers in the name of progress or technology but in reality its all about profiteering at all cost – even it mean taking advantage of the disadvantage. As you have pointed some example on paying bill online for a discount or pay more and many other example available out there which is an outright daylight robbery to be blunt. This is a systemic issue which is taking shape in almost all industries with technology progress is used to justify the losing of basic rights of every human being – the element of choice.

  4. Hi Liz, great post and interesting to see how your mother felt! I find it’s such a fine line for the elderly and computers. They are just told to ‘accept it’ and just ‘have a go’ but like many people aren’t natural computer people.
    I think about the difference in the generations for just my family and I have one grandmother who isn’t on a computer/internet and barely uses a mobile phone, yet another grandparent is on facebook, uses the internet and so on. On the other hand I have a 10 year old sister who uses a computer so naturally. What we do now is essentialy for the newer generations (Millenial) and while I understand they’re our future workforce, I would hope that when I’m in my 80’s organisations cater to my needs as well.

  5. I agree with what you are saying. A few years ago now I tried to help my Nana to learn to use “that box” also known as a computer and the internet. It was a stressful situation for each of us. I found that it was hard for me to “dumb down” what I wanted her to learn and she became frustrated that she didn’t understand how to do what she wanted.
    After a few failed lesson attempts (2 hours explaining how to turn the computer on) we both decided that I would just do the work on the computer for her. And we would get her some lessons from a computer for senior’s teacher.

    She later explained that her reluctance came from a place of fear, and that she hated that her Granddaughter was teaching her something.

  6. An additional disadvantage for my Mother this week. Her first Great Grandson was born this week. The rest of the family has had the opportunity to see pictures on Facebook. She will have to wait for someone to show them to her which will hopefully happen this weekend but again she is missing out.

  7. This is such an interesting post. My Mum, in her late 70s and in the UK, knows what she knows re. computers and that is it. She was taught by my husband some 14 years ago and can manage google and e-mail – and that is all she wants to know (and skype but she doesn’t like it). It frustrates me that when I want to share photographs, I can only e-mail her a few rather than share an album on e.g. Facebook. However, I do think she has a choice and she should have a choice and I am so totally against this idea that comes from the big corporations/utilities that “everyone is digitally literate and will be able to deal with everything online”.

  8. Interesting post. I agree that we should not be making people disadvantaged by them not using the internet. Things are moving quickly but not that quickly.
    On a side note, we recently gave my grandmother (who’s 84yo) an ipad and she’s loving it. She’s now on facebook, skyping and addicted to lectures on youtube! She actually got teary on our first skype session and it really made me think that she would have never imagined that this would have been possible when she was young. She’s always hated computers and had real trouble using them but the ipad seems easier and more intuitive to use and is therefore less intimidating. Maybe you could try one for your mum?

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