As Peter Parker’s late Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” One of the great powers our generation has is technological savvy: laptops, smartphones, and all the complicated steps involved in making them work have become second nature to us. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for many of our parents. I know my mom has a lot of trouble dealing with her PC at home, and I probably receive a tech support phone call from her at least once a week. Though it can be frustrating to help our parents (or other family members) with tech troubles, I do believe it’s our duty to help them out as much as possible.

When I first started helping out my mom with her PC issues, it would be almost impossible to guide her through the steps necessary to do something like scanning from our multifunction printer. I would tell her exactly which steps to take and where to move the mouse cursor, but then something like navigating through the C drive’s file structure would confuse the heck out of her. Frankly, I can understand how using a mouse-based GUI appears ridiculously confusing and intimidating for someone who didn’t grow up with it.

Fed up with having to explain increasingly complicated and context-sensitive instructions to my mom over the phone, when I was home last summer, I installed LogMeIn on her desktop. For those who don’t know, LogMeIn is a free remote desktop tool used to essentially control another computer remotely via the Internet. While I feel LogMeIn is the simplest to setup (and can be run through any browser), those who are more interested in different options should check out TeamViewer, TightVNC, or Remote Desktop Connection, all of which are free for personal use. For our purposes (routine maintenance, helping with email, etc.), free versions of all these tools are more than adequate – all you really need is the ability to control your parents’ or relatives’ PC remotely.

Now whenever she calls, I don’t have to explain anything to her. I just ask her to make sure her computer is on, access her desktop remotely, and fix what used to take both of us 20 minutes to figure out in less than two on my own! Next time you’re physically in front of their machine (or if you can get them to install everything on their own – even better!), set up a remote desktop connection and save yourself hours of headaches as your family’s de facto IT specialist.

Do you have any other tips for helping less tech-savvy family members? Let us know in the comments!

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user birgerking. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.]