Unofficial family tech and computer support is often a frustrating and thankless job, but it needn’t be a dead end. Rather than catching your family’s digital fish, a better approach can be to guide them through the steps as they complete them themselves, so that they might better address their own issues going forward.

This can be accomplished through several main avenues which, if properly demonstrated, can provide transferable skills to future problems that inevitably arise. Consider the following examples, write down or record basic steps for your family to follow in the future, and frustrations and lost time could be mitigated substantially.

Simple Security

The most important first move in helping your family at home is to guide them through the basic steps of safe operation of their hardware. This can easily be the most alienating and intimidating step to newcomers, so be sure to reinforce the idea that these programs now often take user unfamiliarity in stride.

We’ve seen success through the introduction of basic free antimalware programs such as Malwarebytes as a baseline. Show how simple scans of this or similar programs are, and explain that if updates and scheduled scans appear, then they are nothing to be feared.

windows malware
Windows malware message” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Christiaan Colen

Another good idea can be to guide family members through installations of new software. This is important because of the dreaded toolbars and other third-party programs that commonly piggyback on otherwise trusted installers. Be sure to demonstrate how a custom install is the best option to combat this, and that nothing from an installer should be included save for the single program that they seek.

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Next on the list of addressable concerns is the world of online shopping. Whether looking for goods or services, saving money by shopping online can be beneficial for the entire family. Opening the doors of possibilities, however, is often not so simple. Whether through unfamiliarity or distrust of online scams, a guiding hand here is one of the easier ways to turn an amateur into a pro.

There are two parts to this equation: instructions on narrowing down their choices, and on how to fill out payment and shipping forms. While the latter part of this is largely self-explanatory, under utilization of services like comparison websites can be a consistent roadblock.

The best bet here can be to guide family members through different possibilities from Google searches, and show them how these operate. For an example of this, we landed on free mortgage advice from Trussle. As an information and comparison broker site detailing the intricacies of mortgaging, remortgaging, and where these can be acquired, this was a simple matter of demonstrating the site’s features and how to navigate them. Explain that while there is variation, many comparison websites operate in similar manners, meaning that understanding one service or website means understanding many more. In fact, this is a key approach you’ll want to encourage them to take: even though it’s best if they first check with you before making any substantial payments at first, doing the research themselves can go a long way into making them more confident when using technology.

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credit card security
online shops” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Sari Montag 

After you’ve gone through the basic lessons, you might need to reinforce the need for family members to occasionally come back to what you’ve taught.

Reiterate that they have the skills to deal with these problems and that only by making the attempts by themselves can they strengthen their new knowledge. Rather than feeding into the repeating path of learned helplessness, address the problem at its root, and your time and mental state will be all the better for it.