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Science & Technology

The Tie That Binds These Grandparents In Isolation? TikTok

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

TikTok has been the realm of Generation Z, but older people are using the app to connect with kids and grandkids during the pandemic. Eyder Peralta, NPR's East Africa correspondent, has found himself in the middle of this cultural shift, and he sends us this audio postcard.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: I've never thought of my parents as vulnerable. They're survivors, lived through the Nicaraguan civil war. But these days, my dad at least is a nervous mess.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: That's my mom on FaceTime from Miami, describing how my dad makes her wash vegetables outside the house, how when they have to go to the bank, he keeps tabs on where she puts her hands.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: My dad has spent his whole life working. He's not used to being idle, but now he's been stuck at home for six weeks. My mom says they pray for a vaccine in the morning. They do puzzles and take walks. But a few weeks ago, they sent me a video.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) Now I'm lying on the cold, hard ground.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Screaming).

PERALTA: They had jumped on the TikTok bandwagon, and it was hilarious. The video showed them stepping on the scale and being horrified at the numbers.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Screaming).

PERALTA: Before they sent me the video, my parents were already getting TikToks from my aunts and uncles who were being used by their kids as funny props. My sister Heydi (ph) showed mom and dad the ropes, and now they're totally into it, even if my mom calls it tip top.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Tip top.

PERALTA: (Unintelligible). TikTok.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Laughter) TikTok.

PERALTA: The whole thing, she says, is about finding a bit of laughter during a tough time. And now that they have unlimited free time, it's also allowed them to find common ground with their grandkids.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: Grandkids make us do these things, my dad says, to laugh at our clumsiness. I had actually been reluctant to download TikTok from my girls - too much screen time, the potential for creepy people.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hola.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Como estas?

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: But now my parents, my sister, my kids chat and watch each other's TikTok memes.

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNDENTIFIED PERSON #5: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: They've done the coronavirus one, the merengue dance challenge. And now they are on to "Blinding Lights."

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WEEKND SONG, "BLINDING LIGHTS")

PERALTA: Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.