Teaching Technology, Improving Lives

Chandler Girl Scout Eases Seniors’ Anxiety by Teaching Social Media Skills

The 1940s and 1950s marked a time of critical technological breakthroughs and advancements. Major inventions, ranging from the credit card to color television to the modem, were developed in this time period.

Sadly, all these years later, it is technology that sometimes does more harm than good to our senior population. The stress related to seniors’ inability to effectively use or understand today’s technologies—from social media to video streaming—are in some cases contributors to depression, feelings of isolation, anxiety and frustration, which could contribute to serious illnesses including heart attacks, stroke and cancer.

Chandler teen and 13-year Girl Scout, Tressa Stevenson, first saw these issues while trying to help her own grandmother navigate social media apps a few years ago.

“When I was a sophomore in high school, my grandma got her first iPhone and wanted to use Snapchat to communicate with my younger cousins,” says Tressa. “It became a several months-long process for me to help her get comfortable with the smartphone and platform itself.”

Tressa realized her grandmother may not be alone, and made a plan to help others struggling like her grandmother. In fact, she decided to apply her Girl Scout Gold Award to this community and educate others on using social media. This distinguished award, considered the most difficult to earn, allows Girl Scouts to take action in their communities by tackling an issue and implementing measurable and sustainable change. 

“If my grandma— who is tech-savvy for her age—was struggling, I wondered how many other people out there were struggling, and how many people I could help,” she says.

She started by developing an easy-to-follow curriculum detailing internet safety and social media how-to.

Plan in hand, Tressa then spent, on average, two hours every week at Chandler Senior Center teaching her curriculum, answering questions, and helping seniors set up their devices.

For Tressa, internet safety was an important element to include and served as the first part of her curriculum.

“The older demographic, people over the age of 65, are the most common victims of identity theft,” says Tressa. “I wanted to make sure I taught them how to be safe on the internet.”

The other half of the curriculum focused on the ins-and-outs of social media, including what to do, what not to do, and how to use social media as an additional tool to stay in touch—but not as a substitution for human interactions.

“During my time at the center, I realized that the seniors just needed someone there to be available to them, and to be flexible and adapt to their needs,” Tressa says.

Stevenson’s project took about three years to complete.

“Beyond helping others, I learned many things too, including perseverance to keep going,” says Tressa, now a graduate of Chandler High School and currently studying at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. “Girl Scouts showed me how I was capable of doing so much and how valuable my voice is if I am willing to use it.”

Girl Scouts like Tressa are working toward becoming Gold Award Girl Scouts every day, right here in the Chandler community. Many of them are also taking part in the upcoming 2020 Girl Scout Cookie season, which begins Jan. 20 and runs through March 1.

“Most people don’t realize that 100% of cookie proceeds stay in Arizona Cactus-Pine Council to benefit local Girl Scouts like me,” she says.