Not long ago I was at an app developer meetup, talking about baby boomers and what they want out of their gadgets and apps.
“It’s important that we have easy to read fonts and 12 point type in apps,” I was explaining to a developer. “The light fancy font young people use is very hard on our eyes.”
No sooner had I finished my sentence when a young 20-something guy in scruffy jeans and t-shirt resembling the comic strip character Jeremy from Zits looked in my direction and uttered, “Man, do moms even know how to use smartphones?”
“Well yeah, dude, who do you think taught you?” I wanted to tell Zits, but my “momness” got in the way.
Just an uninformed kid, I thought, destined to design an app that probably won’t stick.
So I took my 57-year-old mom self over to a table and sat with more friendly faces. After a few introductions we started exchanging apps on our smartphones. Pretty soon, I was the cool one; with the apps no one had seen. I explained why these particular apps appealed to Boomers.
“How do you know all this?” one young woman questioned.
Half joking, I responded “I’m a boomer, and I’m a mom. We invented technology.”
The befuddled look on her face warranted more explanation, but the speaker had already begun.
Had I had the opportunity to pontificate, I would have explained that we moms, baby boomer moms, were involved in technology long before we gave birth to the youngins’.
We had computers in the 70s and cellphones in the early 80s. We signed up for AOL as early adopters.
We got on Facebook to keep a watchful eye on our teenagers. We learned to text to communicate with our college aged kids. We might be a little slow to learn all of the facets of a program, but we know the basics.
And now 35 years later, we are going like gangbusters,–and there is no stopping us. Just walk in an Apple store and see how many of the customers are female and over 50. It’s more than half, stats show.
According to a 2010 comScore report, women spend 8 percent more time online than their male counterparts — and those active Internet users aren’t just teens. Women over the age of 55 spend an average of nearly 300 minutes a month on social networking sites. Men our age averaged less than 200 minutes a month doing the same time period.
At the Huffington Post this week, tech editor Bianca Bosker got sick and tired of the “so easy your mom could use it!” line – and threw out more stats:
Women have been the powerhouses propelling to popularity such sites as Pinterest (its users are 97 percent female, by one estimation), Zynga (more than half its gamers are women) and Facebook (the majority of its users are women). The average male Facebook user posts six status updates a month. Women? Eleven.Research by Hubspot in 2010 found similar results for Twitter: Women, on average, have more than twice as many followers as men; have tweeted more than twice as often; have been on Twitter longer; and follow more people.
But let’s talk about moms. Mothers account for a full third of bloggers, Nielsen reported Friday. Moms also are more likely than the average online adult to have shopped the web for clothes (35 percent more so), toys (50 percent), music (29 percent) and ebooks (23 percent) in the past 30 days.
Watch out, Zits, we’re gaining steam.
Another woman wrote last week: “Looking back at the skills my own mom indoctrinated in me — skills for a world, and a set of technologies, that are now thoroughly deprecated — I’m struck at how fundamental those skills have proven to be in the tech world I now inhabit.” (Go read her whole piece for the Atlantic here.)
My own personal tech journey started in high school. My Mom insisted that I take typing. “You never know when you’ll need it,” she preached over and over again. She was right; I’m a master at the keyboard, a skill that has served me well through many decades. In fact, in college I was one of the few who owned an electric typewriter. I used it to type term papers for others—charging $5 a page—hefty stakes in the mid-70s.
And like so many, once I was bit by the tech bug it didn’t stop. It grew, as did my income, allowing me to accumulate even more tech devices. I have a bundle– laptop, iPod, iPad, iPhone, (I started with the original Blackberry) and a Kindle.
There I was one day, sitting with my 29-year-old son flanked by our tech gear. I asked him life’s proverbial question “now what?
He’s my only child and he lives in different state than me. He has a great education, a good career path, and wonderful wife. My “mom job” isn’t even part time anymore.
“Be a blogger,” he says. “Write what you know.” “You can do it.” “I’ll set you up with a site.”
“Ok,” I agree. And I’m off. I blog about Boomers and apps, and I love it. I’m excited about all the new tech stuff I’m learning, and about my new adventure that keeps me current, vital and working with younger people.
I run into hurdles every now and again. I email my son questions and he replies with links to teach me how to solve my own challenges.
“Google is your friend, Mom,” he writes. “Use it for your questions.”
He teaches me, like I taught him, and my Mom taught me, giving me the tools to do the task myself.
Encouragement wears many faces. Today I’m lucky to be sandwiched between two very strong and loving faces; my own Mom who gave me the foundation to start a life, and my son who gives me the support to keep creating the future.
Photo of keyboard via Flickr user newfilm.dk.