Age no barrier as teens connect with seniors to break down digital divide

The eSafety Commissioner has launched an innovative program that aims to improve older Australians’ digital skills by connecting them with student mentors. 

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. Ensuring we don’t leave older Australians behind as society continues to move online is essential.” 

Young people also benefit from taking part in the program by developing teaching and leadership skills. And people of all ages taking part in the pilot reported increased social connection and understanding across generations. 

Young Mentors is a free program that helps community organisations and groups partner with secondary schools to coordinate one-on-one digital mentoring sessions. The weekly one-hour sessions focus specifically on the needs of the older learners and are delivered over a period of six weeks.  

eSafety research shows younger Australians are keen to help older relatives get online, with young people more likely to show an older family member how to use technology (59 per cent) rather than doing the task for them when asked (40 per cent).  

The report also shows: 

  • younger generations believe it is important for people over 70 to have better digital skills  
  • young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are even more likely to show an older family member how to use technology 
  • only 4 per cent of young people felt frustrated or annoyed when helping an older family member use technology. 

For older Australians, the program is intended to build confidence in using digital technology, which can create a greater sense of independence, provide greater access to services and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.  

“Young Mentors provides an opportunity for genuine connection between generations as we work together to improve digital literacy in Australia, ensuring older Australians can stay connected with family, friends and their communities and empowering younger Australians through a leadership role as digital mentors,” Ms Inman Grant said.  

“The Be Connected program continues to play an important part in helping eSafety improve the digital literacy of all Australians and make the online world a safer, more positive place for us all to enjoy.” 

Young Mentors is the latest offering in the Be Connected program, an Australian Government initiative that empowers older Australians to access digital technology and online services.  
 
You can see Young Mentors in action in eSafety’s pilot promotional video and case studies. 

To register or for more information visit esafety.gov.au/beconnectedyoungmentors.  
 
Background: 

  • Be Connected is an Australian Government initiative implemented in partnership by the Department of Social Services, the eSafety Commissioner and Good Things Foundation Australia, committed to improving the online confidence, skills and safety of older Australians.  
  • The Be Connected website, managed by eSafety, provides free information, learning modules, webinars, podcasts and more designed to empower older Australians to safely use the internet and digital technology: beconnected.esafety.gov.au
  • When registering for Young Mentors, participants will be given access to a comprehensive toolkit with all the promotional, training and facilitation materials they will need to successfully run the program.
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