My brother wants a computer. What should I do?

He’s in his early 60s and has mentioned this several times. My initial reaction is “no way” for a few reasons. Selfishly, I don’t want to manage the purchase, installation and maintenance of it for him. I also see the possibility for trouble in one way or another, exploding exponentially. Getting onto sites he shouldn’t be on, etc.

I’m surely not a tech genius, so it would be so much more added work for me. He has very few people in his life other than me to help with anything.

And yet, I feel like I’m depriving him of something. Am I? Who has had a good (or bad) experience with their family member, schizophrenia and a computer?

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Years ago I read about a study done on ex-military people. I like the study because it made sense to me. We know that physical therapy can create nerve growth and movement can be gained by repeated attempts.

The study tried to see if the same theory applied to the brain. The subjects played video games and such- things that made them use their brains. Initial results were good - that’s all I remember. I have wondered since if my son’s video games and online news sources have not only let him keep connected to the world- but might also help his brain create paths to work better. “Work arounds” one could call them.

Yes, I know the possibility is fraught with possible problems. Just like my son going to fast food places always ends in him making complaints about how he is being treated and he ends up getting banned eventually. But he was out there functioning and there are a lot of fast food options.

Sometimes when I read extreme opinions on news sources, I do wonder if some of them are our family members.

Maybe start smaller with a used iPhone? No need for complicated set up or maintenance on your part- it’s a good learning experience for your brother. They have them on Amazon you can find phones that are guaranteed for a period of time and just aren’t that old, for under $300.

Best wishes whatever you choose, hope


Interesting. He does have a cell phone, a primitive version, and relies on it to call his job and my mom. Like you I do think there are benefits to connectivity. I just have to weigh them out against the hassles. Getting a relatively inexpensive iPhone might be a good first step.

I imagine he would be more of an observer were he to get online, probably not someone who puts comments “out there” into the world. Maybe I’m wrong…

Thanks for your reply.


I worried about my sz son (38) getting on the internet and then his flip phone became obsolete, and the government phone program sent him a smart phone. Luckily my son knows very little about internet things and the phone sends “News” messages, stuff like what’s already on TV. Also, since he likes reality TV (ironic) He gets TV updates on things like Big Brother and Amazing Race and Survivor. Other than that, he sometimes watches music videos on You Tube. He seems to get some valuable entertainment from it and with that he has no interest in my laptop. If your brother also is not very computer literate then maybe a simple smart phone, nothing fancy, might fill the need he desires. They can be fun toys and the smart phones at least in our house have not led to any chat sites or other questionable activities. Don’t load Facebook or Twitter or any of those programs on the phone that helps. Anyway, I wish you all the best in making your decision. (PS, I wrote my reply before reading other replies, so I was kind of redundant, good luck)

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Thanks for sharing your son’s experience. Maybe a smart phone would be enough for my brother. I’ll consider it if he continues to ask about the possibility of a computer.

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Some thoughts:

There are ways to lockdown both cellphones and computers to certain sites and apps, limit screen time and access hours. These restrictions are more typically intended to supervise childrens’ use of devices, but the goals of both sorts of supervision are congruent. I’ve managed similar systems in work environments, and restricting web content is easier with the right paid services on computers, but managing app access is easier on smartphones—and specifically iPhones.

iPhone users are likely familiar with weekly Screentime reports. Screentime settings, the App Store, Apple ID and Family Sharing services work in concert to restrict access. Speaking from experience in a work environment, supervisory access control can be time consuming and tricky to set up and maintain. The more I did it, the more eager I was to delegate these tasks. It occasionally put me in thorny moral dilemmas with privacy and behavior that I would have rather avoided. The task straddles HR, managerial and Technical roles which are all tough responsibilities with widely varying skill sets.

Were I put in the situation of having to manage my brother’s access, I’d be tempted to pay for a service to manage it like “Net Nanny” for a computer, or ask for help from a family member who went through supervising Family Sharing accounts with their kids. Religious and homeschooling organizations may be helpful in finding resources.

Per the benefits, my opinion is they could be mixed. As with children there are benefits and risks to social interaction and learning with sites and apps, and it very much depends on the person and the apps and sites in question. Reports of young adults with or without SZ getting lost in a world of video games, social media and online forums are common here and elsewhere. My preference would always be for real world interactions, as I feel they are more therapeutic. I’d be more inclined to encourage supervised access at the library, or a friend or family member’s house in an attempt to frame the experience to an enhancement for social interactions rather than a replacement. And then see how it goes. As with children, I feel it should be framed as a privilege rather than a right—at least until some responsibility is demonstrated.

Thank you for your thoughts and advice. So helpful and much appreciated.

Managing apps via Family Sharing on an iPhone–I could handle setting that up. Thx. Net Nanny is new to me, for computers, but you make it sound like a good service.

And yes, the benefits could be mixed, overall.

Maybe a library stop is in order, as you suggest.

Who knows, perhaps a few supervised encounters with this “privilege” could take care of the issue. I’ve been thinking since I asked this question, and in reading the replies, that perhaps my brother asks for a computer in an effort to fit in, since everyone around him talks about computers all the time. If he could play with one for just a short time, he might feel a bit more “with it.” As his sister but not a technophile, I’m always looking to help him out and that might be why I was even tempted to give him this seemingly outlandish, certainly costly–from many standpoints–opportunity.

Don’t know what I’ll do, but thank you again for answering.

am completely with you. I have a brother 62 that I have not given him a computer. He lives alone and I know I could not protect him from what he might find. ]

That’s a good way to put it. Thanks for saying that.

I see my brother, rightly or not, as less a threat online and more likely to be harmed.

This whole topic is just another example, to me, of how we as family members have to overthink and reverse-think so much of what we would ordinarily do. I swear, I get worn out. Decision fatigue. So glad I posted here and people are helping me sort this out.

My brother also has made this request. He is 58 yo. I started with a used i-phone. Every week I taught him how to do something new. I reinforce this weekly with him. He has become fairly proficient using the phone and apps. We use it for FaceTime which has been great to increase our interactions. I showed him how to use email, take photos and send them, use Apple Music, play a chess app, read a news app, and added a subscription to Brain HQ which I pay for annually. The Brain HQ app has games that support executive function and cognition. It gives him daily challenges that are short in time ~10 minutes. He likes all of it! This has taken us 3 years and was not a quick process but I am so happy he has embraced it. He knows how to use google for searches but really uses the phone in as more of a communication and entertainment tool. He has not wandered into any trouble which was also a concern of mine. I rewarded his commitment to learning how to utilize the inexpensive I-phone with the newest model last year. He has very few activities to reinforce his independence and competency with on a daily basis. Mastering tasks on the I-phone has been very beneficial to his self esteem and just requires some weekly patience on my part to teach him new tasks and reinforce them during out interactions. We love the FaceTime! He uses it with my 85 yo mother, sister, and myself which has been very positive for us especially during the pandemic. After he became used to the I-phone and all that it can do, he said he really did not need a computer since his phone is essentially a mini computer. Go for it! Start small and inexpensive! Be gracious with your time and be patient to help him learn over time. It can be a rewarding endeavor!

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Thank you for sharing your positive experiences with your brother and his iPhone. I’m particularly interested because of his age, that is, he didn’t grow up with devices. But it sounds like with your commitment and reinforcement he is using discernment, or at least isn’t inclined to embrace the lesser aspects of being connected. Love that his self-esteem has gone up because of what you did. Awesome.