An innovative program that aims to improve older Australians’ digital skills by connecting them with student mentors is in action across Australia.
Developed by the eSafety Commissioner, Australia’s independent regulator for online safety, the intergenerational Young Mentors program brings teenagers together with older Australians to share digital skills and knowledge and help them gain the confidence they need to navigate the online world.
“Technology has a wonderful ability to connect, enable and empower individuals, and the importance of this connection was made even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.
“For those of us who use digital technology as an essential part of our daily lives, we may not realise how novel it can be to older people who have lived much of their lives without it.
It’s difficult for anyone to stay on top of the continually evolving digital landscape as new technologies emerge. As more and more of our day-to-day interactions take place online – from connecting with family and socialising with friends, to shopping and accessing essential services – we must work together to equip older Australians with the digital skills and confidence to be online.”
Younger Australians agree, with eSafety research showing they are keen to help older relatives get online. The research shows:
- younger generations believe it is important for people over 70 to have better digital skills.
- young people are more likely to show an older family member how to use technology (59%) rather than doing the task for them when asked (40%).
- young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are even more likely to show an older family member how to use technology.
- only 4% of young people felt frustrated or annoyed when helping an older family member use technology.
“Digital literacy is important for every age and every stage, and we have seen first-hand how the Young Mentors intergenerational program presents a range of benefits to all participants,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“Young Mentors facilitates genuine connection between people from different generations. In bringing teens and older Australians together with the shared goal of improving digital literacy, they also experience an increase in social connection and understanding across age groups.”
The free, self-paced program intends to enhance older Australians’ digital knowledge and encourage a greater sense of community through interaction with young people. Through the program, a community organisation or group partners with a school to coordinate a series of one-hour sessions that are delivered weekly over a period of six weeks.
Young Mentors is designed to be tailored to the needs and skill levels of the older learners. This enables it to be adjusted and paced according to the expertise and insights of the groups that have signed up for the program, ensuring it can accommodate as many older learners as possible.
For older Australians, these one-on-one mentoring sessions are designed to build confidence using digital technology to create a greater sense of independence, improve access to services, and help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Through Young Mentors, high school students can develop leadership skills and communication techniques, learn the value of patience, respect and empathy, all while improving essential digital life skills for older Australians.
Bringing teens and older Australians together with the shared goal of improving digital literacy also fosters social connection and understanding across both age groups.
The intergenerational program has been developed by eSafety as part of Be Connected, an Australian Government initiative that empowers older Australians to access digital technology and online services.
“Our Be Connected website also offers hundreds of free resources – including self-paced courses, online presentations, articles, podcasts, and even a games and skills practice area – to support older Australians and those who support them keep their online skills sharp and increase their confidence using the internet and digital devices,” Ms Inman Grant said.
Be Connected also supports Australians to mentor older family members or friends so they can thrive online.
eSafety is inviting Australian schools, councils, libraries, aged residential care facilities and other community groups to sign up to be part of Young Mentors. When registering for the free program, you are provided with a comprehensive toolkit with all the promotional, training and facilitation materials needed to run it.
To register or for more information visit beconnected.esafety.gov.au/young-mentors and see first-hand what participants think of the program.