8 Tips to help seniors safely use Social Media

Social Media helps keep us in touch with the world around us, but there are some cautions to keep in mind.

Written by Stannah

According to a study published by Statista,  in 2020, over 3.6 billion people worldwide were actively using social media. From Facebook to Twitter, Instragram and beyond, and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, social media became a way for us to be able to keep in touch with family and friends, read the latest news or connect with those who share similar interests.

However, while this exciting new social media landscape provides a variety of opportunities, continuous updates and the integration of new features may cause us to become overwhelmed.

So, we’ve selected 8 easy ways to help you safely use social media.

Keep it private

You should avoid oversharing personal information on your social media pages. This includes announcing upcoming holidays or posting daily updates while away. Advertising your absence can be an open invitation to burglars and you should wait until you’ve returned before showcasing all the beautiful photos and videos you took.
Many popular services have settings to control who sees your content. For example, Facebook provides you with the option to limit post visibility to small customized groups such as family members or close friends. You can check Facebook’s resource center for more detailed information and easy-to-follow directions for changing these settings.

Bulk up your password

Many individuals use personal information to create their passwords, such as a favorite sports team, children’s names or birthdays. Simple passwords like this can compromise your internet security.
A strong password should have more than eight characters, and involve letters, numbers and punctuation. This combination should include both uppercase and lowercase letters and not form a word that can be found in the dictionary.
You should also use a different password for your social media accounts than the one used for online banking or any other important websites.
However, one of the biggest obstacles preventing us from creating a complicated password is the fear of forgetting it. Don’t worry! – It is OK to write down passwords, just be sure the paper is hidden somewhere safe and not in plain sight by your computer.

Trust your instinct

When using the internet, people have generally been advised to only chat to individuals they know personally. However, social media excels as a hub for connecting people with similar interests, and interactions with “strangers” are more common than ever before.
With the availability of unique online “Garage Sale” marketplaces like Gumtree and other special interest forums, meeting up with an individual from the internet no longer carries the stigma it once did years ago. However, you should inform a friend or relative about any potential encounters and avoid going alone wherever possible.
Furthermore, social media is not exempt from the scams and fraudulent activity that have littered websites and email chains since the dawn of the internet. SeniorNet advises people to only click links from credible sources. When in doubt, contact the individual through another medium to verify the legitimacy of the link.
If you are redirected to a login page, particularly if it’s one for the website you are already on, Seniors Online Victoria advises you to close out immediately – as logging in again may lead to data phishing.

Understand social media etiquette

Etiquette is an essential part of the social media experience. Some individuals may share different thoughts about the type of content they see as appropriate to post or view online. While sharing a cute toddler photo of your teenage grandkids may seem silly and innocent to you, it is best to ask permission first before posting something private about another person.

Keep Calm and post on

Social media provides us a unique platform to share our thoughts and feelings. This may sometimes spark a spirited debate, especially if it involves current events. It is OK, and even encouraged, to engage in this discussion, but remember to do so in a civil manner and be respectful of others’ opinions. Avoid overly critical messages, unnecessary insults or inappropriate content.

Don’t let ads engulf you

Social media has developed into a major outlet for advertisers, taking advantage of their ability to market directly to consumers. SeniorAu encourages seniors to only purchase items from reputable online merchants. If you are unfamiliar with a particular company, you can verify its legitimacy with a quick internet search. Look for merchants with a variety of reviews and links from different sources.

Trustworthy retailers will generally use secure websites. These pages will have “HTTPS” in front of their name in the address bar at the top of the page, with the “S” representing “secure” (you’ll notice the stannah.co.nz and blog.stannah.co.nz URL at the top has this). Depending on your browser, there may also be a “padlock” icon. If possible, you should avoid making purchases through websites that only show “HTTP.”

Some stores may also promote a product that is completely different, and of higher quality, than what they eventually provide. Once again, user reviews are a great resource for narrowing down the possibility of these scenarios. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. While legitimate free shipping or discount promotions are commonly touted across social media, it is best to avoid websites offering an unbelievably cheap holiday or a free product that normally costs $100s.

Remember, it’s permanent

You should always have the mindset that everything put on their social media site, or the internet in general, is permanent. While accounts can be deleted, anyone can easily print or save text, screenshots, photos or videos to their own computer.

Call the grandkids

Millennials have watched the social media era blossom right in front of their eyes. For many, this type of interaction is second-nature and an integral part of their lives (albeit, maybe a little too much at times). Our last tip is that you should enlist help from your children or grandchildren when learning to properly use social media. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them first before proceeding.

Now that you have these tips, make sure to connect with Stannah on our Facebook page if you haven’t done so already. This page is the easiest way to stay involved and discover useful information and resources designed to help seniors maintain independence and remain in the home they love.