Social Media Safety for Seniors

"Privacy settings" on the screen. Woman hands over the keyboard laptop at home interior.If you think social media is just for kids and millenials, think again.  According to the Pew Research Center, Internet use among those age 65 and older has grown 150 percent between 2009 and 2011.  A 2012 study also done by Pew, showed that 34 percent of seniors who are online, use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Generally, seniors who are using social media are viewing posts and photos from friends and family, which can help reduce depression and feelings of isolation.  Still, as great as it is to share photos and videos, you can’t forget about safety. Seniors are a common target for criminals and scammers who studying the social media habits of seniors, as well.  Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of a social media scammer/hacker:

Go easy on the selfies and check-ins:

While it is fun to post selfies and mention places that you regularly visit in order for the grandkids to have a window into your life, it also gives a window for burglars and other criminals into your life. If you post online that you meet friends for lunch every Wednesday at a local restaurant, then burglars will know to break into your home on Wednesday between 12 and 1:30 p.m.  Selfies aren’t safe either. Photos taken with smartphones can have data such as time, date and location, which criminals can use to learn about your whereabouts.  So, either shut off your phone’s Global Positioning System or post selfies and check-ins after the fact. You want to be sure you are posting on social media for friends and family, not for criminals.

Don’t post phone numbers, street address, emails address or photos that would identify anything that a thief would want or need. This should be obvious.  If you don’t want telemarketers or weirdos bothering you, don’t make it easy for them to bother you. There are private messaging options on both Facebook and Twitter.  If someone you know doesn’t have a way to contact you outside of social media, you can provide contact information via the messaging option. If someone you don’t know asks for contact information while you are on social media, ignore that person. In addition, if you own antiques, art work or expensive jewelry, it is a good idea not to exclusively feature them. (i.e. “Look at this Peter Max painting I bought in an estate sale.”) Either crop them out of photos or don’t post photos of them on social media in the first place.

Check privacy settings, yet don’t be so quick to post a comment

You should consider that everything you post on social media can be seen by both friend and foe with very little effort. Think twice about posting a rant about your boss or co-worker or something pro or con about a particular politician. An innocent little post to you, might not seem as innocent to others. Still, you can set your social media preferences so that only those who follow you will see those posts. “I have like-minded friends,” you might be thinking. “Wouldn’t that protect me?” No, it won’t, because your friends could share your posts with others and you don’t know who your friends’ friends are.  So, if your post is something that you wouldn’t want on a billboard along I-95, don’t put it on social media.

Being on social media can be a lot of fun.  Still, you need to be careful. You don’t want your posts to get you into trouble. So, using some common sense should keep your social media experience fun.


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