Advice Assisted Living

What Advice Do I Need to Share with My Dad to Keep Him Safe Using Facebook and Email?

Man and woman smiling

Dear Benchmark,

My 82 year old father asked for a “tablet” for his birthday this week. Since he’s never been interested in anything online, we weren’t even sure what he meant at first! It turns out many of his friends from the senior center have iPads they bring everywhere. Several of them showed my Dad how easy these devices are to use and now he wants a tablet of his own.

Since we have so many family members who live far away, I think it will be a great way for him to stay connected with them. It seems like helping him master Facebook and email are the best places to start. But I know there are safety issues he needs to be aware of. I’ve never really been much of a social media fan myself, so I’m hoping you might have some good advice you can share!

Kind Regards,

Advice for Keeping Older Adults Safe Online

Dear Tina:

Good for your dad! Email and social media have become a part of our everyday lives. Everyone from the local library to the beauty salon communicates via email and Facebook. So it makes sense that older adults are signing on.

A survey by Pew Research Internet Project showed that 59% of people over the age of 65 are online. We also know that one third of all older adults now stay connected with friends and family through Facebook. Tablet devices like the iPad on your father’s birthday list make it much easier to connect.

But as you mentioned, seniors who are new to email and social media are at risk for falling victim to scams. So let’s talk about the safety issues you should be sure your father is aware of before he embarks on a journey in to cyberspace.

You can help your Dad stay safer online by covering the following topics together:

Strong Passwords: As you and your father are setting up his email account and Facebook page, make sure to use strong passwords. And try not to use the same password for both accounts. Instead, create a different password for each platform. They should be at least eight characters long and include a mix of upper and lower case letters, characters and numbers.
Email Safety: Seniors who aren’t tech savvy can be more susceptible to online scams, including what are called phishing emails. These are emails that look as if they are coming from a legitimate company, like the senior’s bank or credit union. The email will contain a link asking the older adult to “update their account” or “login to review their rewards points.” Once the senior logs in, the scammer grabs their personal information. Remind your dad never to click on links in any email he receives, especially from financial institutions.
Malware: Along these same lines is software that is intended to damage or disable computers. It often arrives in the form of a link in an email that looks like it is from a friend. When the user clicks on the link, the software is launched. Chain email letters that are typically distributed to large groups of friends at once can also be a source of malware. Make sure your father knows to be wary of both potential sources of trouble.
Facebook Security Settings: Once you and your Dad have his Facebook page set up, review Facebook’s Basic Privacy Settings and Tools. You can use them to restrict who sees your father’s profile and postings. In most cases, it is safest to limit access to friends.
Beware of Friend Requests: Your father also needs to know that, unfortunately, scammers and con artists also use social media sites. These cyber criminals search for people they think are lonely and often target seniors. Encourage your Dad to only accept friend requests from people he knows. And he should be cautious if a Friend request pops up from someone he is already Friends with on Facebook. This is often an indication the person’s account has been hacked and your Dad should know not to accept a second Friend request.

Before you and your Dad log off, head on over and “Like” the Benchmark Senior Living Facebook page. We share everything from photos of the great activities that take place every day in our communities to tips and advice for aging with grace.

Assisted Living, Independent Living
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