The Grandmother Problem


First, “the grandmother problem” is not just related to baby boomers and the silent generation; it also includes young people. The 74The numbers reported are higher for the older generations. To be fair, the older generation has had to learn a lot about the internet on their own, unlike the younger generations that had classes and school lessons. Initially, when the internet was made available to everyone, media literacy was not being taught. It was like making automobiles without seat belts for many years. Many people were seriously hurt because there were no safety measures in place. Now all cars come with seatbelts, but first legislation was put in place, making it mandatory, and people were instructed to use them for their safety. 


Step one– Making the older person aware of the problem with unintentional misinformation on social media. Not in an aggressive way, but in a positive, informative way. Explain to them that misinformation can be harmful, believing an exaggerated account as factual news—it’s like The Telephone Game, where you whisper in someone’s ear a statement. By the time it goes around to five people, the story has changed. It is our responsibility to determine the credibility of the source before we share it. Show them an example of a fake news story (data doesn’t backup wearing a mask in public) and explain how back in their day, reporters like Walter Cronkite stood for getting the news right. He would argue that the story is not correct. He is cited as the “most trusted man in America.” (Wikipedia)

Daily Herald

Step twoShow older individuals the different fact-checker guides they can use to verify if the story is true or not. Use them as their tools to fact-check websites guides and news stories to discern whether what they are seeing and reading is real or fake. The fact-checkers’ mission is to expose rumors about health claims, political claims, and more on social media sites. Show older individuals how to look for other stories with the same subject to ensure it is valid. Knowing the data is accurate before it can be shared on social media. Make fact-checking a part of their online norm while reading social media posts and news stories to keep themself from misinformation (understanding wearing a mask in a pandemic helps protect them). I guarantee once they understand the process, they will run with it. Tell them Walter Cronkite would be proud of their efforts.

Step three-like anyone who has done their research shares their information, but now they can add their resources to back up the shared data. If anyone questions their post, the credible resources will speak for themselves. Older people have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. Giving them the skill set to use social media with media literacy will help them (maybe save them from COVID-19). If everyone practices this, sharing misinformation would decrease, and more reliable social media data is available. Another courtesy is to ask before sharing family photos of others on social media.

Just like the automobiles added seat belts to keep drivers safe, teaching media literacy to everyone should be a given. Offering free classes is one way to start giving people an understanding of how to determine real or fake information. ASU News Co/lab  and public broadcasters will be offering a short online seminar in media literacy in October. It’s for Gen. Z to the Silent generation. I am asking that my older family members sign up for the class. Educating everyone that media literacy will give old and young the skills to fact-check to ensure credibility before sharing data. It would reduce “the grandmother problem” of false and misleading information that is shared on social media. I am not sure it will stop the family photos post.