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Basic Internet Safety Tips for Seniors to Stay Connected Online

Daily Internet and cell phone use is the norm for the majority of society these days. It’s uncommon to meet someone that doesn’t have a cell phone or use the Internet at least once a day. We’ve grown dependent upon technology to keep us connected to each other, the world around us, and to do everyday activities such as paying bills, ordering groceries, booking vacations, and earning a living.

Senior citizens today are no different than the rest of us – they need technology to navigate daily life activities. A recent study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information cited that 70% of the seniors they sampled reported that they were open to learning new technologies, despite being intimidated by the ever-evolving industry. Additionally, many senior citizens sampled noted that technology has enhanced their life by saving them time, increasing their flexibility in communication, and they found these tools easy to use and necessary.

Staying Connected

Staying connected as a senior citizen has many advantages. The use of technology and the Internet has helped to improve the quality of life and aide in maintaining relationships for senior citizens across the world. With social media platforms such as Facebook and Skype, many senior citizens are able to watch their grandchildren grow through regular photos and videos. A recent University of Arizona study states that up to 1/3 of all seniors are using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. These apps help them to stay in touch with lifelong friends they may have lost touch with otherwise.

It is common for seniors to begin to feel isolated as they age; the loss of loved ones, spouses, and friends can be isolating, and so can moving into a senior living community. The integration of these apps with senior living communities helps seniors to stay connected and ward off those feelings of isolation and loneliness. In fact, many senior communities are incorporating computer rooms, reliable WiFi connections, and even technology concierges to help their residents navigate and use modern technology available to them.

Internet Safety 101 for Seniors

While it’s important for seniors to remain connected, entertained and active through the use of technology, it is equally important for them to exercise caution and interest safety. None of us are exempt from Internet scams, but unfortunately, many scammers specifically target senior citizens. Senior citizens are often at an increased risk for Internet scams and fraud due to a variety of unique vulnerabilities. Lack of computer skills, limited Internet skills, and being more trusting and generous are just a few of the factors that put seniors at risk of falling victim to elaborate online scams.

Here are some helpful tips for ensuring you practice Internet Safety 101:

  1. Keep your computer properly secured. Ensure you install reliable security software, set up automatic updates, turn on a firewall, and use secure passwords. You may need to hire a computer technician to get this setup, but exercise caution anytime you give access to your computer to an outside company. Ensure you choose a reputable company who is fully licensed and bonded. Beware of anyone who contacts you to inform you there is something wrong with your computer – even if they claim to work for Microsoft, Dell, Apple, or other common computer companies. NEVER give anyone remote access to your computer who has contacted you offering “help” or warning of a security breach; hang up your phone and take your computer to a reliable technician to have it looked at instead.
  2. Don’t overshare. Social networking sites and sites who cater to older users are often targeted with quizzes and surveys that are in fact scams; these quizzes often ask invasive questions about private information such as health, wealth, assets, income, number of children, and family names. While some of these quizzes may not be scams it is best to exercise caution anytime you are dealing with the Internet and stray away from giving out any personal information about yourself or your family on an online quiz or survey.
  3. Exercise caution with online dating. Online dating is becoming increasingly popular for senior citizens. Many seniors have lost their partner to death or divorce and may be lonely. Online dating is an excellent way to meet new people, and many people find success with it. Online dating is also an easy way for predators to find potential victims for their scams, most often with the goal to get money from them. Therefore, if engaging in online dating ensure you exercise some basic precautions: NEVER wire money or mail cash to someone you’ve met online – no matter what sob story they give you, if you decide to meet in person ensure you do so in a public place and also tell your loved ones when and where you will be meeting, never give out your address or personal phone number unless you have built a great rapport and are ready to take your online dating relationship to the next level with in-person dating.
  4. Other Key Internet Safety Tips for Seniors:
  • Don’t trust a link sent to you by someone you do not know, and DO NOT click on it.
  • Never trust an email asking for account information or credit card information.
  • If a deal is too good to be true, IT IS NOT TRUE!
  • Never send money to another country, state, or a stranger.
  • The best scams warn of fraud and offer to help save you from fraud. If you are concerned your computer, email, or online account has been compromised reach out to someone you find that is reputable – don’t trust someone who reaches out to you.
  • If you did not enter the lottery or a sweepstake than you did not win a lottery or sweepstakes. Do not believe that if you give a little money to claim your prize you will get a lot of money back – true lottery winners do not need to pay anything up front to claim their winnings.

Health Tracking

Health tracking wearables such as smartwatches and fitness apps are appealing to seniors as a way to stay on track and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many senior citizens are beginning to track their health habits, and doctors are encouraging this. Counting steps, tracking blood pressure and heart rate, and even monitoring blood sugar and calorie intakes are a great way for seniors to use technology to improve their health, and they are embracing this. Whether trying to maintain weight, lose weight, or ensure their vitals stay in a healthy range during physical activity, senior citizens are a major target audience for health tracking wearables today.

Keeping Current

Using the Internet and technology can be intimidating or overwhelming for seniors, but the benefits of learning to safely use these tools far outweigh the risk. Staying connected with the rest of the world and keeping current with advancements in technology can be life-changing for seniors, and therefore should be encouraged.

By practicing some simple and basic Internet safety tips, and educating yourself on the Internet and its various social networking platforms, any senior can enjoy the benefits of the world wide web. Many organizations offer free online classes to provide older adults education and access to computer technology. Additionally, your local library or local community college may offer adult online courses for seniors interested in learning or improving their Internet skills.

Sources (more info for Seniors!):

Online Safety Resources – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/digital-skills/online-safety-resources
Internet Safety for Seniors – https://www.atg.wa.gov/internet-safety-seniors
How Technology can Give Seniors More Independance – https://telemedicine.arizona.edu/blog/how-technology-can-give-seniors-more-independence
The Benefits of Social Technology Among Older Adults – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312603/
Pew Internet Research – http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/technology-use-among-seniors/