Our parents didn’t grow up with smartphones, tablets, and stream boxes like many current high school students have. Some of them had computer lab classes and a bit of coding practice, but nowhere near the level of experience gathered by students who use a tablet every day in every class, unless of course they have pursued technology careers. Technology is similar to an instrument: It is easier to learn and retain information when your brain is still “plastic,” which is a science term that describes neurons as still readily apt to make connections in the brain.
Some students take a particular liking to technology early on. They take apart broken toys and put them back together. Eventually, they become proficient at repairing and troubleshooting. Family members begin to take notice, and tap into this free labor source when it’s young and careless. The fledgling guru goes at every problem they’re given until they realize one of a few things: they aren’t getting paid, their clients aren’t becoming self-sufficient, or it takes away their time.
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you should ask yourself is this, “Do I like fixing every problem this family throws at me free of charge?” Whether your answer is yes or no, there are ways to make being the family tech guy much more enjoyable.
- Be a repairman
There are two basic ways to go about repair work as a subordinate in the home. One option is to act solely as a repairman, the other is to act as a teacher. The repairman route is for those who don’t mind being an unpaid contractor in their own home. An effective repairman learns of the problem, shuts the door, fixes it, and leaves.
Junior Nicholas Russell, who likes being called on for help, said, “The annoying part is having other people want to help. Often times I already know what to do or where to go to find out, and then someone comes in and messes around trying to fix something and makes it worse.”
Herein lies the problem. Within a family, it is very difficult to let “clients” know that they are “clients” and not “friends” during the duration of the repair. It is not out of hatred, but necessity, that this line must be drawn.
“The most annoying part of being the family technician is, when the ‘client’ believes that they are right when I am solving the issue, telling me how they tried to approach the problem and how I should try that way as well,” junior Garrett Mindrum said.
- Be a teacher
Students who take the teacher route when setting up or fixing electronic devices have a glimpse of hope of escape. However, those who enjoy solving problems and explaining prefer this method as well. The hope for some is that teaching will lead to self-sufficiency, and their work will no longer be required. This doesn’t usually work, however.
Junior Jack Munzel said, “Many times I’ve been asked to scan documents for people. I’ve explained how to do this, and although it can be complicated it’s not too difficult for someone’s who’s committed to doing it on their own.”
Whether or not you enjoy this work, it is a way to show some of that selfless agape love from the Bible. People may not always be thankful for your work, but you’ll know you’re doing saint’s work when the minutes turn into hours.
- Be Socrates
More often than not, the person who has asked for help is capable of solving the problem themselves. This is made more apparent when they point out what to do next, but still say it as if it was a question. Using the Socratic method is like being a teacher, but with a much greater chance of never being asked to help again. Personally, I have been called rude for helping this way, because it tears at their ego when they’re shown how lazy they are when they could have done it themselves.
The first question to ask is this, “What do you think you should do to solve this?” First of all, this pins the solving on them. Also, if they have preconceived notions of what to do, they are obliged to do it at this point. If they have no clue, hit them with the kicker, “Google it.” Usually they will say that they don’t know how to ask. This seems like an utterly baffling statement, given that they just asked for help with a specific issue. What usually works at this point is to tell them to type in exactly what they had already asked, yet still they will do this reluctantly.
There are two outcomes to this, either they will figure it out on their own, or they will give up. Little do they know, that even us “geniuses” google the problem. Crowthers said, “My tip: Just google it. Seriously though if google doesn’t work, searching through menus until you find the right option is also a good strategy.”
- Pretend to be clueless
If the river isn’t flowing, then they’ll have to dig a well. It may be dishonest, but lying about capability may lead to escape from the cage of family technician. This isn’t necessarily foolproof, as I have heard no testimony that it works, but it can’t hurt. If family members and relatives flocked to you for your expertise, they might leave when its gone.
Sabotage disguised as idiocy probably isn’t the best option here. It would be best to proclaim cluelessness, as Mindrum said, “If someone were trying to leave the occupation, I would honestly tell them to fake a misunderstanding of the subject.”
- Last resorts
Compensation would be much appreciated by anyone roped into providing tech assistance to family members; however, compensation is very unlikely to be given, even if earned. One way to make it clear that it is work, and not just a game or puzzle, is to provide a bill. It’s very unlikely to actually be paid in this situation, and it would probably be taken as a joke, but it would bring to light the problem of this unpaid child labor.
If that doesn’t work, try teaching siblings instead of the person actually asking for help. It wouldn’t be too terrible if they accidentally found themselves as the new tech support in the household, but people tend to stick with the same person for all their jobs. Maybe sabotage isn’t such a bad option.