According to a study conducted in 2011 by North American Technographics, 49% of U.S. seniors spend time online. Just under half of that number are currently active on Facebook. Many use the site to keep in touch with old friends and keep tabs on their family members.
As seniors are new to the technology, they may not be aware of the need to protect their information from potential hackers. This leaves them extremely vulnerable to frauds, scams, and even theft and burglary in some cases.
Many seniors attend classes to learn about Facebook terminology. The following is an extensive guide for seniors on how to stay safe on Facebook.
Facebook Basic Terminology
Friends: These are generally family members and friends you know personally. However, some people have hundreds of friends whom they’ve never met. You can add friends by sending a friend “request” and the person has to accept the request to become one of your Facebook friends.
Be careful when responding to friend requests from people you don’t know personally. Your “friends” have access to your personal information on Facebook that the general public can’t see.
Wall: Your FB “wall” is where people can write public (within FB) messages to you, like “Happy Birthday!” Your wall also shows the posts you’ve made personally and has links to your friends’ posts if you’ve commented on their posts.
Status: Your “status” is anything you want to post about yourself. It can be family news, a joke, or anything you find interesting. When you update your status, whatever you post appears on your friends’ news feeds.
Be selective about what you share as your status! Don’t, for instance, announce that you’re leaving for a month in Europe or even that you’re at Lone Star Steakhouse for dinner. Beside the dangers of announcing you aren’t home, most friends really don’t care if you’re at the grocery store or shoe shopping.
Groups: FB groups are where people with shared interests – cooking, knitting, cats, politics, power tools, etc. – can interact by sharing comments and links. Groups are a good way for clubs to publicize events and keep members up-to-date on events.
Things to remember about groups:
- Non-FB friends in your groups see your name, but don’t see your personal information.
- Groups can either be tagged as “open, closed, or secret.”
- Secret groups are invisible to search engines and even FB searches. Group members have to “invite” new members to join. Secret groups are a good option if you want to keep information completely private and hidden – like youth groups, a Sunday school information board, etc.
Shared Links: Many people have inadvertently downloaded viruses & other malicious software by clicking on suspicious links in Facebook. This usually happens when a friend’s account gets hacked and the hacker posts a link with a provocative – but generic – title like: “See what miraculous ingredient gets rid of stubborn belly fat!” or “Look at the family pictures I just posted” or “Can you believe this?” or “Claim your $500 gift card to Starbuck’s, Costco, ….” or any other offer that sounds too good to be true.
Secure URL: Pay close attention to the link’s URL (http address). If it’s to the New York Times, WalMart.com, or other recognizable sites, then it’s probably ok. But if it’s to a site you’ve never heard of – especially if it has an international address (something other than .com, .org, etc…), then it very well could be a spam and/or dangerous link. When in doubt, don’t click.
Keeping Your Private Information Private
Password: Follow all the basic security steps to set your Facebook password (and all other online passwords for that matter)– avoid using your pet’s names, children’s names, and other things that are easy to guess. One good hint is to use both numbers and letters, but make sure you can remember them. If you remember your childhood phone # or a random grouping of numbers and letters, that’s a good start. There are sites that will generate strong passwords for you if you are having a hard time coming up with one on your own.
Security Settings: Under the “Account” link in your account, there’s an option titled “Account Settings.” Click the link and then select “Security” from the left-hand menu.
- Enable “Secure Browsing”: That sets up a secure http connection. So when you log into your FB account, the URL in the browser window will start with “https” instead of just http.
Privacy Settings: Access your privacy settings from the “Privacy Settings” option under the “Account” tab.
Be careful when you play any games or take Facebook quizzes. They will most likely require you to give access to your personal data that will be used to target advertising to you and your friends. The Privacy Settings page also offers options to control how people can find you on Facebook and whether search engines will index your content to show up in search results. Make sure to select the “off” option for search engine indexing to maximize your privacy.
In the past, Facebook has justifiably been criticized for its lack of transparency with privacy. The service recently launched a “Privacy Shortcuts” link that’s always in the top right-hand corner of your Facebook page. Be sure to check your privacy settings occasionally to make sure they are up to date and in line with your preferences.
Carli De La Cruz is the Sales & Marketing Assistant at Bay Alarm Medical. Carli earned a B.A. in Sociology with Legal Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She currently manages all of Bay Alarm Medical’s social media sites, and assists with advertising campaigns. She writes blogs on senior health, retirement, senior living, baby boomer news, and medical alert industry news. You can read more of her posts at Bay Alarm Medical blog.