To expect my in-laws to be able to use Skype?

(41 Posts)
ConfusedKiwi Tue 20-Nov-12 22:48:51

We are currently living in NZ, in-laws are in UK. They want to Skype us every weekend (although usually ends up every fortnight) to see my ds. That's great - when we were in the UK we did the reverse with my family and the time difference generally works out pretty well.

However, they seem to struggle to use it even though before we left we gave them instructions, my sister in-law has sat with them and talked it through numerous times and we advise them nearly every call. I realise they are not as familiar with laptops and the internet as my generation (although my family, including my mum who is a bit of a technophobe managed it).

1) They never turn on the video at their end until we remind them.
2) They set it up virtually every time with a bright light directly behind my MIL so you can't actually see her face (not very engaging for a 2 yr old).
3) They set it up so that they aren't sitting together and then attempt to swing the camera back and forth.
4) They don't seem to be aware that they go out of shot frequently when they lean forward (again, a 2 yr old isn't particularly interested in talking/responding to a random voice).

Finally, and I expect this is unreasonable, my MIL doesn't 'do' anything, she just sits and watches. At least my FIL attempts to play games (e.g. if 2 yr old points at screen he reacts).

The above would probably be fine if they only expected say 10 minutes but they want to skype for a lot longer but trying to get a 2 yr old to stay and interact (or even stay in the room) is impossible when he can't see them and my MIL just sits there half out of shot in silhouette.

They are coming out for 10 weeks from just before xmas (when dc2 is due) and I am dreading the fact that my MIL will not interact with ds but will complain that he doesn't like her... as she did when he was a very wriggly baby and cried if she just tried to hold him still. Unfortunately due to health issues she is less mobile than average for her age which is part of the problem but she also has very high expectations of him and I am worried she is going to be disappointed (and vocally complain) when he wants to play with Grandad or others instead of her.

Oh well, at least we can try and coach them in Skype again when they are here and it might improve things once they are back in UK...

Sounds like there are 2 problems - first is technical - they've got the hang of the basics, but aren't comfortable enough with the technology to understand how to get the best out of it - solution to this is probably patience and time and keep repeating what they need to do and reiterating that they need to look at the picture that they are sending which is what you see.
Second is probably general communication - they aren't good at interacting with children. Not sure how to fix this - maybe examples of things that worked with your parents, and just hope that after your visit they've managed to find some common ground to interact and play with your son. I'd be tempted to manage the conversations until they get better - get some things that your son wants to show them, but equally pounce on anything interactive that they could do and show your son.

babybythesea Thu 22-Nov-12 12:01:35

I'm in the queue to use the teleportation device!

We actually have far more success with dd's Kiwi cousins talking on Skype. They are 12 and as soon as they start to chat to dd, they do things like sing nursery rhymes, or do silly things and ask her if she can copy them, or take the computer off to show her things in their bedroom which she finds interesting, rather than asking the standard grown up questions (have you been a good girl? what have you been doing lately?).
We also follow dd round so they can just watch her at play. It's not possible to just leave the computer in one place as dd wanders off so you actively have to follow her with it, making sure they can see her, so you don't forget it's on or anything. It also gives them a chance to ask her about what she's doing and engage with her about that activity, rather than relying on fairly abstract conversation. It does help that MIL plays along so then if dd hands her something through the computer, she pretends to take it and says thank you etc. But we do find it's better to follow her round and let them try and engage with her through that than issuing instructions. "Can you draw a picture for Gran to see?" tends to get a loud "No" and her running off, whereas she does actually pick up pencils a lot and if we give her a bit of space, she's quite likely to wander off and draw a picture and then she holds it up for them to admire just as she would if they were in the room.

The baby swap idea is still open for the taking by the way. You may also need to know that dd (age 3) is starting to learn the art of 'talking back'. When trying to tell her off the other day I was met with a big sigh and a weary "Mummy, if you're not going to say anything nice I don't want to listen".

2rebecca Thu 22-Nov-12 11:30:05

I don't think I'd like the feeling of being watched whilst I got on with stuff, I'd worry I'd forget about it and say something inapproriate. I can see the opening presents might be good, but am glad my dad has never expressed a wish to use skype, although teenagers probably aren't as entertaining as toddlers.

It took AGES for my DP to understand and use skype. I would agree with whoever it was who said that it does seem to be partly linked to wanting to use it. The improvement in my DPs' communication with us came at the same time as a lot of other improvements in our relationship. They did seem prepared to try harder to maintain a relationship with us over distance and now it works really well.

I think that patience might be the key though. The more we used it, the better it got with my DP. Also the DDs have got more used to sitting and chatting, singing etc. in front of a computer screen so they are probably more exciting/engaging. This year DD1 opened her birthday presents from GPs with them watching her on skype. That was a lovely time for them. Sometimes we have just had it on in the background when the DD have been doing something such as playing in the paddling pool or cutting out cookies. Just so that GPs see them 'live' and feel included in what we do on a day to day basis. We have a couple of books that we each have a copy of and GPs 'read together' with DDs too.

2rebecca Thu 22-Nov-12 10:33:01

I would limit it to 10 minutes, I don't like long phone calls so would get bored with long skype calls. I'd have toddler in view for a few minutes and then when he gets bored you go off with toddler and your husband chats to his parents for a few minutes more.
It's really just a phone with a video link, I'd treat it as such, on the phone a kid would just say hello then wander off so i'd do the same with skype.
Have 3 or 4 minutes of small sprog waving and showing them stuff and then leave your husband to chat.

ConfusedKiwi Thu 22-Nov-12 07:02:02

Thanks all, I really do appreciate that they even want to skype - it's great that my ds recognises them as his grandparents and that they have this level of interaction when so far away.

They have an ipad (and pc and laptop) but we only have laptop at the moment and don't intend to buy an ipad so facetime not an option.

Will encourage ds to show toys/books more in future.

Love the idea of swapping with baby, however what I really want is someone to develop a cheap/safe teleportation device so we can actually get over there more easily. We were in the UK for 5 years before our first trip back home and I think we are going to be looking at similar going the other way due to the costs.... really miss our friends and having proper interaction with DH's family (particularly their xmas celebrations).

Bellebois Wed 21-Nov-12 22:57:07

Kia ora, Kiwi
We have the same problem, was in UK (now Russia) with NZ parents, and in-laws. Firstly, I would say that kudos to both sets of parents on even trying skype -my mother has never done it despite having a laptop that is able to for the last 6 years - we have lived away from NZ for 12 :-(
We skype my inlaws once a week, every Saturday although the time changes. although it is a pain sometimes, i am just happy that they are so keen. It is only now at 3.5 that my DD interacts with them really, and it is only for a few minutes at a time. the skype is really for us to chat, DD comes and goes,shows off a new toy or picture, book etc
I agree with mulledwine -just tell them when you connect to put on a light or sit closer -don't expect your DD to entertain them for any length of time. Skype has made a huge difference to being away -we currently live in a very remote location, but luckily it has a great internet connection:-) makes the times inbetween go faster.
We bought an iPad, which makes it so easy, actually they called once and I only realised after a few minutes that my DD had answered and was chatting away to granny in NZ! Haven't managed facetime though, but the ipad is fab travelling in any case....
good luck! enjoy NZ,summer,soon.....

Facetime is much easier. We do it with my iphone and you can use the camera on the back of the phone so that you can have a normal adult conversation while following DC around with the camera so that they can watch your DC playing.

LimeLeafLizard Wed 21-Nov-12 11:45:37

Sounds like the problem isn't so much their technical ability as the expectation that your DS will sit still for a long time looking at them doing nothing. I'd just let him get down after 10 mins rather than force it.

Also, it is easy to 'over-worry' before someone comes to stay about how they're going to be. You may find that MIL isn't how you fear she will be with DS at all. So don't stress unless it actually happens.

Or just go with baby's suggestion!

gotthemoononastick Wed 21-Nov-12 11:32:02

Sigh....add Skype do's and dont's to huge spreadsheet of what to do and what not.

echt Wed 21-Nov-12 11:18:03

My longest-standing UK friend, since the early 70s, still hasn't/won't do Skype. I have to Skype. This friend has all the tech yet has NEVER initiated a phone call to me.

Six years in Oz. Fuckity fuck. Just writing this has made me realise.sad

babybythesea Wed 21-Nov-12 11:13:06

By seeing the correct child on the visits, I meant the ones where they come and stay with you, or I go to NZ with DD - when everyone related is in the same country - oh, I give up. I know what I mean.

babybythesea Wed 21-Nov-12 11:10:58

I have a new solution.

We live in the UK and inlaws live in NZ.

I suggest a partial swap.

Not full time you understand, I adore my MIL and don't want to trade her. I also really like my FIL, but he has a habit of falling asleep in front of Skype which makes interacting hard. Also DD likes to play hide and seek which doesn't work over skype. My proposal is that I will take DD to your inlaws as a subsitute for your DS and you take your DS to my inlaws.
Then they both have a small child to see (children are interchangable right - no-one will notice???) and no need for computers at all. They can see the 'correct' child on the visits.

An alternative - may I suggest just swapping the children? Quick warning - mine comes with the ability to draw on walls (I didn't request this application but it seems to come free with the product and is proving challenging to uninstall - you may have more luck with this) and a desire to make pancakes at odd times of day. Interested? That way, the grandparents could see the correct child in person and you and me could skype with them - as we both understand it - might be a lot less stressful.

whizmum Wed 21-Nov-12 10:58:08

No, understanding of technology is not related to age, but the desire to understand it is and sometimes people need a bit of help to encourage them that it is a worthwhile effort to make.

specialsubject Wed 21-Nov-12 10:53:03

understanding of tech is not related to age - had an email from an 87 year old the other day saying she wasn't stranded without her car as she had just done her grocery shopping online, and I have a 93 year old relative who uses skype and facebook as well as email. I also know much younger who can't cope at all!

suggestion for skype calls with a toddler; get the other end to buy a couple of charity shop toys and show them in the call. Bears that wave always go down well with toddlers and will produce cute big grins. Also try to get them to understand that the small screen in the corner shows what the other end is seeing?

i agree that it can be a groundhog day situation. :-)

whizmum Wed 21-Nov-12 10:43:06

Well, I think you need to cut them a bit of slack and encourage them a little.

I have now reached an age where I realise that as you get older not only does the world change at a faster pace, but it also goes obsolete faster. Some times it is just not worth learning how to use things as you use them a couple of times then all change again.

Just after my dds were born, I went to an open day at BT where they showed us the new World Wide Web, and they were working on sending video - even the idea of video phones so beloved of 1960s sci-fi (which never happened as internet progressed faster) Now the are at uni, I can skype them (although sometimes I wonder if the video quality is really that much better than 1994) I must admit that they have to be patient because I never know which bluddy hole to plug which bluddy wire in.

Really you have to pick and choose which new thing to invest your time and energy in, coz you don't know whether it will be gone tomorrow or something else.......

They need a better webcam - one with a light, wide angle and doesn't fall over, easy to plug in. Make sure dc has something to show them even if it is just the same old toy - it will give them something to talk about. Tell them they are getting good at it, even if it is only turning it on!

(PS my mother died at the age of 70 having never programmed a video recorder and never bought a microwave 'as a point of principle'. Some people are just Luddites.)

Alligatorpie Wed 21-Nov-12 08:27:30

I feel your pain. My inlaws do skype, but the first 10 minutes of any conversation is "can you see us, can you hear us?" kind of questions. I don't go near the laptop until that has all been finished! Drives me batty!
Dd1 is often bored talking to them, where as she is engaged by my mom,so likes talking to her on skype. I think the difference is that I skype my mom for the kids, dh Skypes his parents for him - so dd is bored by the conversation.

NoraGainesborough Wed 21-Nov-12 08:13:53

My ils had a LAPTOP and had 6 months before they realised it could be unplugged from a power source and placed on your LAP. They looked horrifies when dh was showing them something, unplugged it and put it in the other room. you would think the clue was in the name.
Mil then tried to access her email by typing her email address followed by her password into the text box on google (its not even a google email account).

So while I get your pain, yabu. Some people find it really hard

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 21-Nov-12 08:08:31

No, I wouldn't have a "technical rehearsal" or lessons anything of the sort. It sounds incredibly passive-aggressive. The whole point is supposed to be that Skype is easy and unthreatening to use, you're only going to put them off even more if you make it a big deal that they're not doing everything right 100% of the time.

Nearly all the problems you mention can be fixed quickly while you're on the call - ie, you can tell them to turn the video on, sit together, turn a lamp off etc. Is this really so much trouble for you? It takes seconds.

The only serious problem is that they don't seem to understand (your MiL in particular) that it's a video phone call. Their learned behaviour with screens is to watch them, not interact with them. If you made the phone call comparison more explicitly they might get how they're supposed to behave - they wouldn't expect to call somebody on the phone and just sit there in companionable silence.

Although, if she doesn't interact with your DS in real life anyway then her problem isn't really Skype, is it. Is that what you're really annoyed about?

EMS23 Wed 21-Nov-12 08:05:41

ivykaty - I think that's unfair. It can be really hard to learn how to do something, no matter how much you want to.
Computers are a mystery to lots of people, especially people that didn't grow up with them as part of everyday life.

Bunbaker Wed 21-Nov-12 08:04:18

"I think it has more to do with whether they want to do it than their age, it is to do with learning something new and the persons aptitude and wanting to learn that particular new trick"

I agree ivykaty44

LottieJenkins Wed 21-Nov-12 08:02:05

Skype is brilliant for deaf people! Wilf and I skype every day. Every evening at 6.29pm i get a text saying "skype please Mumma!!"!!! grin

ivykaty44 Wed 21-Nov-12 07:56:06

my dad skypes his mate in Australia all the time and visa versa - i often pop to his house and find him having a coffee with his mate from school, they are 73 and do it fine by themselves.

I think it has more to do with whether they want to do it than their age, it is to do with learning something new and the persons aptitude and wanting to learn that particular new trick

CailinDana Wed 21-Nov-12 07:52:02

My mother is in a very responsible job, is only 57 and cannot use Skype for love nor money despite my sister explaining it to her about 4,000 times. It is extremely annoying. Similarly when I lived at home I had to help her check her email every single day for a year. That's 365 times I explained it to her before it went in. How I didn't kill her I don't know.

If your MIL complains about your DS then ask your DH to have a word to her about it.

mumblechum1 Wed 21-Nov-12 07:51:00

Agree about just buying a couple of iPads if it solves the problem.

I've only used Skype once and it was a total pain, kept going on and off, and I use computers all day every day. For someone who maybe only uses computers for a few minutes, once a week, Skype is probably quite tricky.

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