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Social Media Savvy for Seniors

September 17, 2018

​Older adults are flocking to social media. A Pew Research survey found that as of 2018, nearly 66% of Americans over 65 are Internet users, and seniors are one of the fastest-growing groups using social networking sites. Sites like Facebook are great for keeping up with friends and family, and research also shows that seniors who spend time online experience improved brain function and lower risks of developing depression and dementia. However, social media also presents some extra risks for older people, so it’s important for seniors to get savvy about social media dangers.

​According to a True Link Financial study, seniors lose almost $13 billion each year due to financial scams, many of them online. The problem is so severe that almost a million seniors each year are left in financial hardship. Seniors on social media are targeted by identity thieves, scammers, and potential abusers. Criminals know that older people tend to be more polite and trusting, so they’re more likely to be swindled by an urgent-sounding message or a seemingly friendly contact.

Here are five strategies we can all use to protect ourselves on social media:

  1. Use strong privacy settings to keep your information from being seen by strangers.
  2. Choose your friends carefully. Only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. It’s not impolite to decline or ignore a friend request on social media. (Also, don’t be hurt if a teenage grandchild doesn’t want to friend you online. You didn’t want your grandma listening in on your phone calls when you were their age.)
  3. Don’t overshare. Be protective of your own privacy and that of your friends and family. Never share personal information like your address and birth date. Post vacation photos after the vacation, so you don’t advertise that your house is empty. And don’t post photos or facts that could be embarrassing to your relatives or friends, either. Social media posts live forever, and your grandson’s future employer doesn’t need to see a cute baby picture of him in the buff.
  4. Be careful what you click. Scams against seniors abound: romance scams preying on the lonely, so called “grandparent scams” where someone claims to be a family member in trouble, health product scams for miracle cures, and more. If an unusual message or unexpected ad pops up on your social media account, think before you click on it. If in doubt, get a reality check from a trusted friend or family member.
  5. Report abuse. Cyber-bullying happens against elders as well as kids. If someone is harassing or threatening you online, block that person on social media and report it to a friend or family member as well as law enforcement.

​No matter your generation, we all grew up with the warning “Don’t talk to strangers.” It’s harder to tell who’s a stranger on social media, but the same rule applies. Social media safety is mostly common sense, and with all their life experience, most seniors can claim a wealth of that!

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