As any parent knows, most teenagers spend way too much time on their phones; the average is seven hours and 22 minutes per day. However, a group of teenagers recently decided to put their screentime to good use.

A recent report from CBS News highlights the CLEO initiative, started by a group of helpful teens who put their knowledge of technology to work, helping elderly care patients figure out how to use their smartphones.

The group of high school students – Derrick Hueniken, Christian Laquis and Aaron Smolyar – started CLEO, short for Computer Literacy Education Outreach, in 2021.

The teenagers “were joking about how bad their grandparents were with technology. … When the laughter faded, Aaron Smolyar was struck with an idea.”

The group decided to walk over to the Brookdale Senior Living center after class to help any senior in need learn how to operate their iPhones and Androids.

“They’ve been volunteering ever since, showing seniors how to connect using technology. Jonathan Smith, a resident at Brookdale, said he couldn’t figure out how to text a picture until one of the CLEO kids explained it to him,” CBS News reports.

“The volunteers also helped Nancy Kirkpatrick clear out her inbox, which was chock-full of emails — over 122,000 unread messages.”

The residents of Brookdale call the kids “amazing,” “a blessing” and thanking them for being a “great group.”

CLEO now has six chapters nationwide, with its mission to bridge “the digital divide between generations by empowering senior citizens with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the digital world.”

But the more important gap that has been bridged was the one between the group of teenagers and the elderly citizens, with both thankful that new relationships have been formed.

You can watch the full segment from CBS News here:

Now, since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, there has been much reporting – and rightfully so – done about the shocking rise in loneliness and mental illness among young adults. But one underreported story is the loneliness epidemic occurring America’s seniors.

According to a 2020 study published by the National Academy of Sciences, nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans aged 65 and older who live in a community setting are considered by be “socially isolated.” Additionally, a staggering 43% of Americans aged 50 and older report feeling lonely.

Social isolation and loneliness are widely considered to be health risks, contributing to negative health outcomes.

All told, our seniors need a sense of community.

Thankfully, that community can come in the form of a young teenager with a fancy gadget or gizmo in their pocket, ready and willing to show older Americans how it works.

Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department offers help from licensed or pastoral counselors. To request a conversation with Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department, call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time), or complete our Counseling Consultation Request Form. Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor to return a call to you as soon as possible. The consultation is available at no cost to you due to generous donor support and will be with one of our licensed or pastoral counseling specialists.

Related articles and resources:

Counseling Consultation & Referrals

Caring for Elderly Parents: The Complete Guide

America’s Elderly: The Forgotten Generation

Connecting With the Elderly

Depression and Suicide in the Elderly

Photo from CLEO Initiative.