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Smartphone classes taught by teens attract flood of elderly applicants in central Japan

Third-year students in Mie Prefectural Ujiyamada Commercial High School's information processing department pose for a photo at the school on July 29, 2022. They explained that they would teach the basics of smartphones to class participants, and said, "Please ask us anything." (Mainichi/Toshihiro Ozaki)

ISE, Mie -- The municipal government here has received a flood of applications from older people to join classes in which local high school students will teach them the basics of smartphones.

    The free classes intended for those aged 70 or older will be taught by their grandchildren's generation at a lifelong learning center in the Mie Prefecture city of Ise on Aug. 25. Third-year students studying in the information processing department at Mie Prefectural Ujiyamada Commercial High School will teach people in the lessons. Participants will be divided into small groups according to their objectives, and they will learn how to use smartphones while enjoying chatting with high schoolers.

    The classes, organized by the Ise Municipal Board of Education in cooperation with Ujiyamada Commercial High School, will be offered in the morning and in the afternoon. Each class has a capacity of 20 people, and the seats have already been fully booked. As the city government sought participants through its newsletter, the number of applications far exceeded the students' teaching capacity, and there were also a number of inquiries from residents under 70. An official at the education board's social education division in charge of the program said, "We were astonished by the huge demand for smartphone classes and the great response. Instead of making the classes a one-off event, we'd like to lower the target age bracket and continue to provide opportunities regularly in cooperation with the school."

    Some 20 students who are slated to graduate next spring will teach participants the basics in person, such as how to make and answer a phone call, and how to send and receive email and text with other people on the Line messaging app. Many of the students teaching the classes started using smartphones when they were in elementary school. One of the students reflected, "I naturally became able to use (my smartphone) by asking friends and handling it myself." The teens, who make up Japan's "smartphone generation," apparently more often use the devices for social media such as Instagram and posting videos online than talking on the phone.

    Haku Nishioka, 17, is eager to be an instructor for the first time, and intends to teach participants how to avoid falling victim to fraud. "Many people get tricked by email spam they receive on their smartphones. I want to teach people why they should ignore such messages," he said.

    Mai Oguchi, 17, who plans to go enter a vocational college to further study information processing, said with a little anxiety: "I'm not good at talking with people I've met for the first time. I'm worried if I can converse with everyone on the day."

    (Japanese original by Toshihiro Ozaki, Ise Bureau)

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