Senior Resources » The Impact of Technology and Culture on Grandparents and Grandchildren

The Impact of Technology and Culture on Grandparents and Grandchildren

teen on phone ignoring grandparent

Julie offered Phyllis a warm greeting as the two friends picked up their lattes at the counter and moved to a booth to begin their weekly visit at their favorite coffee shop. After exchanging pleasantries, Phyllis said to her friend, a Christian life coach, “I need to run something by you. 


“Recently while talking with several of my grandchildren, I made a startling observation. I’m not sure we speak the same language. Not only that, I took three of my grandchildren out for pizza the other day, and they all sat there, glued to their cell phones, not talking to me or to each other. In fact, I finally figured out that they were texting back and forth to each other across the table. I just don’t get it!”

Julie responded to her friend with a smile. “I’ve noticed the same thing with my grandchildren. I had trouble getting them to communicate in conversation. So, I decided to do some research into why it was so difficult for me and other grandparents to communicate with our grandsons and granddaughters. After all, fostering communication between these two generations is a big part of the reason why we developed the course on Grandcoaching.  I believe you checked out our website,, and looked it over.”


“I did Julie, last week.” Phyllis responded after sipping her latte. “But I’m not sure I’m computer savvy enough to take an online course like this.”

“Let’s come back to that issue, Phyllis,” Julie replied. “First let me fill you in on the study I’ve undertaken about changes in culture and communication. As a result of that study, I’ve just about concluded that we really don’t speak the same language.” 

“How can that be?” Phyllis asked. “After all, I don’t believe  English changed that much over the last several decades. I will admit that, when my husband and I were in London recently, I couldn’t understand anyone at the airport, or just about anywhere else. A lot of the words were different, and the accents, especially all the people from India and Africa who worked at Heathrow Airport, were really almost impossible to understand.”

Major Cultural and Technological Changes 

Asain grandparents and grandchild using a phone together

The study Julie had undertaken noted a variety of cultural and historical changes over the years, even dating back to before Julie was born in the mid-40s. During World War I and even World War II, people learned about what was going on in the world through newspapers, magazines, and even “Movie Tone News”– the newsreel that ran before movie features in theaters.


In those days news reporting was restricted because of transmission limitations and censorship regulations. To say it was not in any way comparable to the kind of instant use available on cable television and the Internet today is an understatement. In fact, Julie learned that often the news was circulated 3 to 6 months later depending on what area of the world the news originated in, and the method by which it was transported or communicated back to the United States. 

Over time radio, a primary source of information during the world wars, was replaced by television during the Vietnam conflict, and that carried over to the Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Television was also a primary means of news about the space race, and Julie recalled sitting glued to the television in 1969 when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. She noted that her son, a baby at the time of the lunar landing, served in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan when communications were accomplished in real-time over cell phones and Facebook—less than 30 years later.  

Other changes involved the standardization of postal and telephone communication with the implementation of ZIP Codes, area codes, and the 911 emergency contact number. Telephones morphed from party line to wired to wireless, and finally to cellular service.  Then came the “smartphone,” an incredible computer package that fit into the palm of one’s hand, but with more technology than existed on Apollo 13. 

The development of the internet further expanded instant communication through emails, apps, and instantaneous communication of voice, pictures, and data.

The Impact of Changes on Intergenerational Communication

teen on phone

After surveying some of these previous decades, Julie observed, “Recently I was on a Zoom conference– another of those technological changes– and I heard a college professor assert that more changes have been made in technology in the last 75 years than had been made in over 20,000 years of history.”


“No wonder we have such a hard time communicating with our grandchildren,” Phyllis asserted. “It’s a different world!” 

“Let’s think about some of the differences and how they have affected intergenerational communication,” Julie continued. “You and I grew up talking on phones that were wired into the wall. It wasn’t until I first trained to become a life coach that I had my first mobile phone– a large bag phone! Felt like it weighed a ton!”

“There’s another thing I don’t understand about how life is different for my grandchildren than it was for me when I was a teenager,” Phyllis observed. “None of my teenage grandchildren seem that interested in getting a driver’s license or a car. When I was 15, I took a test to get a learner’s permit, then took driving lessons. I took my driving test the day after I turned 16! My parents were reluctant, but before long they were letting me use their older car.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that change, Phyllis,” Julie replied. “I think there are a couple of factors. One is the development of Uber and Lyft. My two oldest grandchildren are among Uber’s best customers. The other is, because of FaceTime, texting, and other electronic means of communication, I’ve observed that teenagers are not necessarily going out as much. They see no need for a car. The change in their attitude toward transportation has had a direct impact on the automobile industry showing a 30% drop in sales in one year!

“For example, when we were younger, going to the mall was a big deal. These days a lot of malls have closed and been turned back into greenspace, and our grandchildren are using Amazon and eBay to do a lot of their shopping. To be honest about it, I do much more shopping online today too.”

The changes created by the advances in technology are altering not only our language but also our perception of how we do business, communicate, and relate to each other.  

Navigating Grandparent Communications Challenges

grandparents with grandkids

‘So how do I communicate with my grandchildren, given the fact that there are so many changes between when we were younger and the world they live in?” Phyllis asked, a perplexed look on her face. “I really see the importance of being able to communicate with them. I’m even willing to give that online Grandcoaching course a try if it will help. But do you have any other recommendations?”

Julie paused to think, then replied, “One thing I decided to do was to enlist my 18-year-old granddaughter Allie to serve as a translator. She’s familiar with the way her peers and her siblings think. Two of the major tenets of Grandcoaching are to learn to listen—and to ask questions. I’m getting better at both of those skills. But I still have a lot to learn. 


“I’ve also made two lists, one of some of the words that were part of our vocabulary growing up, and another of some of the key terms our grandchildren use. 

“Seems like the cellphone has become like a third hand to my grandchildren,” Phyills continued. “I almost never see them without it.”

“Yes,” Julie responded, “And, as I mentioned, we were well into adulthood when the original mobile phones became available, and they were expensive, bulky, and not very dependable. I can still remember dropped call after dropped call.

“There’s one other thing I’ve started doing with two of my granddaughters. We get together once a week, and we go over some Bible verses together. After we read a verse, I ask them how they would translate that verse into their own vernacular. What I found is that, while they are learning what verses are saying, what they mean, and how they apply to life, I’m learning how to better relate to teenage grandchildren!” 

“That sounds like a great idea, Julie,” Phyllis replied. “I’ll give some thought to doing that with my two oldest—they live nearby– and I’ll sign up for that course. Remind me of the website?””

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Originally published May 28, 2024


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