TINLEY PARK, Ill. (November 2014) — If you are older than 55, and you’re on Facebook, you are in the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users. Seniors appreciate Facebook for many of the same reasons other demographics do — re-connecting with old friends, viewing photos posted by family, and sharing daily opinions with the world.
No matter what your age, if you are new to the social media culture, it’s a good idea to be cautious. Online predators target older demographics precisely because they tend to be more polite and less suspecting. And these predators know that many seniors have accumulated a lifetime of assets and good credit.
Here are 4 tips to help you (and your parents) use Facebook safely:
1. Don’t advertise your age
When you sign up for Facebook, you are required to indicate your birthdate. However, you can choose how much of that information appears in your profile.
If you edit the “About” section on your profile, you can choose who sees your birth date and year. Allowing only yourself (or yourself and friends) to see the date (especially the year), helps you avoid people who are looking specifically for seniors.
2. Use a good password
Passwords are a very important part of protecting your privacy, and the stronger a password is, the more effective it will be. The best passwords are long (at least eight characters), and contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use words and numbers that are easily guessed — like your name, your birthday, or password1234 — but pick something that has meaning for you, so that it’s memorable.
One option is to use a phrase instead of a word (ICanDoIt14). You can also mix in symbols for a stronger password (instead of Bears1985, type Be@r$1985).
3. Take the time to edit your privacy settings
You can customize who sees your information on Facebook. On the blue bar on the top of the screen, there’s a lock icon — click on one of the shortcuts or choose “See more settings” to change your privacy settings.
If you are helping your parents with these settings, be prepared to spend some time explaining the options and helping them make the right choices. You might decide to use a very restricted setting while your parents are new to Facebook, and then relax those settings as they gain some social media savvy.
Specify who can look you up and send you a friend request, and select how your messages are filtered. For strict privacy settings, allow only friends to see what you have posted, and allow only friends of friends to send you a request. Allow only friends to look you up with your email and phone number, and don’t allow search engines to link to your page.
Just above “Privacy” on the left side of the page, there’s “Security”. Click that, and you can add other layers of protection. Edit your login notifications to receive an email or text if someone tries to log into your account from an unfamiliar location. Edit your login approvals to require a six-digit code — sent in a text message to your phone — every time you log in from a new browser. Otherwise, periodically click on “Where You’re Logged In” to see the locations of the last login attempts for your account, and make sure nothing looks unusual.
Above “Security” is “General”, where you can change general account information. This includes your password, which should be changed periodically.
The options listed along the left-hand side also allow you to block people, apps, event invites and pages (“Blocking”), decide who can follow your posts (“Followers”) or see what you put on your timeline (“Timeline and Tagging”), and change some aspects of Facebook advertising (“Ads”).
4. Be careful about what you post, and who sees it
After your account is set up, there are still steps to take to protect yourself. Accept friend requests only from people you know in real life, and post wisely — sharing that you’ll be out of the country for a month, for example, may make your home vulnerable to burglars.
One more idea
Facebook is supposed to help people connect. If you are in the “sandwich generation,” Facebook represents another opportunity to bridge the generation gap between your children and your parents. (See our blog post, “Bridging the Generation Gap,” for more ideas.) Ask your kids to help your parents implement the settings described above! They’ll teach what all the different options mean; they’ll learn how seniors are particularly vulnerable.
Providence on Facebook
Providence is actively involved with Facebook at all our communities, and we understand what a powerful and useful tool it is. Though Facebook’s intricacies can be overwhelming, people can make good decisions about it when they are armed with the right information.
Providence people are using Facebook to enhance existing relationships. Family members who live far away from the community where Mom and Dad live can stay connected by viewing photos of daily life on campus. They can also post their own photos — of new births, family vacations, holiday parties — and staff on-site will print these out and deliver them.
If you are interested in seeing our Facebook philosophy in practice, visit the pages of any of our communities listed below! Each one is a safe place to learn more about Providence and get a sense of community life: