Carol is all for her father staying abreast of technology, but she thinks his Twitter obsession has gone too far. Jo Lamble helps her navigate the social media minefield with her father.
My 68-year-old father has discovered Twitter and while I think it’s great he’s keeping up with technology and social media, some of the things he posts are frankly outrageous. He’s a teacher, still working, and has some strong left-wing views, which is his right. But the torrent of abuse he gives people on Twitter for not agreeing with his opinion is embarrassing.
Also, it’s very difficult to have a conversation with him as he is constantly on his phone. My sister and I have both suggested that he’s taking it too far, but my mum just interrupts and says we should leave him be. I’m concerned he’s excluding himself from normal life and that he may become a victim of internet trolls. What can we do?
A. You sound like you’re at an age where you probably worry about what your children are doing online, and now you have to monitor your father’s online presence as well. My advice is the same whether you’re dealing with a teenager, a partner or a parent, and that’s to help them rather than reprimand them.
Telling your father that his tweets are inappropriate and outrageous will cause your father (and mother) to be defensive. But if you tackle the situation with empathy and support, he may just listen. For example, you might say something like: It’s fabulous that you have discovered Twitter. You’re obviously enjoying it. I know you have strong opinions and you have every right to have those views, but I’m worried that some of the users on Twitter may not take too kindly to everything you say. I’d love to help you with what can be very tricky – being online and the main rule is that you only say things that you’d say to someone’s face. Lightly remind him that the law is being rewritten to address online abuse and discrimination and that you’re worried he will fall foul of the new laws.
You might not be able to convince your father to tone down his aggressive style, but you should have a better chance with a supportive approach.