Ultimate Guide to Social Media & Online Dating Safety for Seniors
Social media may be a relatively new phenomenon, but in its brief tenure here on planet Earth, it has already completely revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with one another. Social media use among seniors in particular is increasing with each passing year. In fact, a Pew Research Foundation report found that 34 percent of seniors used social media in 2017 compared with only 27 percent in 2013. With so many more elders integrating social media into their everyday lives, it’s important to have resources to help promote internet safety for seniors.
The unfortunate downside of social media is that it’s a space rife with people looking to scam folks out of their money and their personal information. And, because many seniors don’t have the same kind of education about using the internet as their younger counterparts, a lot of scammers see seniors as easy targets.
Still, it’s important not to get too wrapped up in all of the potential hazards of social media use. After all, there are plenty of great advantages to using social media. Being able to socialize with friends and family, pursue your passions, and meet people with similar interests are all advantages of social media that can have a positive impact on your mental and even physical wellbeing. For seniors with mobility issues especially, social media can help you stay connected to the world outside of you.
That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide for social media use and online dating for seniors. With the tips we’ve presented here, you can make sure that you’re protecting yourself while enjoying all of the many amazing benefits that social media has to offer.
Here’s what you’ll get in this guide:
- 15 of our best tips for maintaining your privacy and safety while enjoying social media
- 13 of our top practices for dating online safely
- 6 great resources to help you make the most of your social media experiences
Social media tips for seniors
Before we dive in, let’s start by answering a simple question: what exactly is social media? Social media encompasses any number of websites and applications that allow us to share content, communicate, and network with others via the internet. Here are some of the most popular sites that you might want to check out:
- Facebook. A site to connect with friends and family and share photos, personal updates, interesting articles, and more.
- Instagram. An app where users share photographs from their everyday lives.
- Twitter. A site where users can share short, 140-character statuses or updates on whatever topics they want.
- Pinterest. A social platform that acts like an online bulletin board where you can bookmark images, articles, and other content that you like to save for yourself or share with others.
Social media privacy tips for seniors
The first thing that you’ll want to address when considering your online social media safety is your privacy settings. Privacy settings are a great way to protect yourself as they give you control over how much of your information you do or don’t share with other people.
Each social media network has its own options for privacy settings, so you’ll need to adjust these settings for all of your different profiles.
The most popular social media site for seniors is Facebook, so let’s take Facebook as an example. When you log onto your profile online, you’ll see a blue menu bar at the stop of the screen. Click on the downward facing arrow all the way to the right of the screen, and scroll down to click the Settings option. On the Settings screen, look at the bar to the far left and click on the Privacy icon. From there, Facebook will prompt you to make adjustments to your privacy settings.
Now that you’re linked up to the social media network, here are some tips for maintaining your privacy on social media:
- Make your password complicated. If you make your password for your accounts something simple like your birthday or your grandchild’s name, it will be much easier for opportunists to access your account. Use a random password generator to create a password, then write it down and keep it in a safe place where only you have access to it.
- Relatedly, make different passwords for every account. That way, if someone does manage to get one of the passwords, they won’t have access to all of your accounts.
- Log out of your account when you finish. This is especially important if you’re on a public computer, but it’s a good practice to follow at home. If you leave your account logged in, it’s much more likely that someone could get on your computer, access your account, and get information about you.
- Consider purchasing antivirus software for your computer. It’s always good to have a line of defense in place, and antivirus software can help protect you in case you come across a bad link or virus.
- Only share your posts and information with your friends. Most social media sites will let you choose who can see your photos, posts, and other content. Set your privacy options so that only people you have chosen to connect with can check out your stuff.
- Don’t make your email address or phone number public. Many social media networks will require you to have an email address or phone number to sign up, so ensure that your privacy settings don’t have these things displayed publicly.
- Err on the side of caution. There’s a certain rush we get from getting a new friend request online or having lots of people like our photos. While that feeling of people wanting to be friends with you can be nice, it’s best to be wary about who you connect with, especially if you don’t know them in real life. Choose privacy over having a bunch of friends.
Tips for general social media use
Of course, the way that you use your social media page can either keep you safe, or open you up to potential risks. Here are some general use tips to help you enjoy yourself while staying safe on social media:
- Use the block button! If someone is bothering you and you don’t wish to continue communicating with them, sites like Facebook and Twitter have options available for you to block people so they won’t be able to continue contacting you.
- Likewise, the unfriend or unfollow button is your friend. If you only allow friends to see your content and there’s someone following your page who you don’t want to continue seeing your profile, you can choose to unfriend or unfollow them.
- The Help page is there to, well, help you. On Facebook, you’ll see a question mark icon on the menu bar at the top of the screen which can lead you to their Help center. You can search for answers to all your questions there, so if you’re confused about how any of the features work, the Help center will likely be able to help you figure them out.
- Be cautious about clicking on links. Unfortunately, the internet is full of viruses and other traps that often just look like normal links to a website. Make sure to ask whoever posted the link whether they meant to send it to you before going ahead and clicking on it.
- Similarly, be careful about filling out online quizzes or surveys. Sure, you want to know what classic movie character you are or what your taste in music says about your personality. But, quizzes and surveys posted on social media frequently contain viruses or are trying to get you to offer sensitive information about yourself under the pretext of filling out a survey. Best to steer clear!
- Don’t give away any personal information to people who contact you through social media. Certain scammers may pretend to be someone reputable like your bank or insurance company in order to get you to give them private information. Just know that someone like your bank would never contact you through social media, and if you’re in doubt, make a phone call to confirm that whoever is contacting you is not connected with the company they’re pretending to be from.
- Keep information about your whereabouts minimal. It’s especially important to take caution when posting or sharing things that might let someone know you’re away from home. Some scammers have been known to take advantage of information you provide online to know when you’ll be away from your house so they can steal things from your mailbox or home.
- Don’t trust an online stranger simply because they know information about your or your family. These days, doing basic research on people is pretty easy, leaving us all vulnerable. If someone reaches out to you pretending as though they know you and your family, make sure to check if they have mutual friends or connections with you, and ask your friends or family members if they know the person.
Online dating tips for seniors
Let’s also answer this question: what exactly is online dating? Online dating operates via websites and apps, allowing users to connect with new people who could be potential friends, dates, or lovers. Here are some of the best online dating sites for seniors:
- Match.com. One of the most popular dating sites out there, Match is great for folks looking for long-term relationships.
- Our Time. This app and website is an online dating platform from the makers of Match.com specifically for folks over 50.
- Senior Match. One of the top senior dating sites, Senior Match has been in the business of helping seniors find online dates since 2003.
- Silver Singles. Another great option for seniors over the age of 50.
Tips for staying safe while dating online
The world of dating has changed a whole heck of a lot since the advent of online dating. Now, instead of meeting people organically in the real world, many of us are opting to peruse online dating sites to find the perfect companion.
This new way of doing things definitely has advantages. For instance, online dating profiles allow us to share our interests, passions, and likes and dislikes, making it much easier to find others with whom we’re compatible. And, being able to access hundreds or even thousands of different profiles means we have the luxury of taking our time and finding people to connect with who might genuinely develop into romantic partners.
Unfortunately, as with many things online, there are certain people out there who use online dating to take advantage of others. Many of these people see seniors as particularly easy targets. But, with these tips in your arsenal, you’ll be able to navigate online dating safely and with ease:
- Exercise caution when someone you’re chatting with seems too good to be true. Yes, that chiseled young man who’s sending you messages might seem like a total dreamboat, but likelihood is he’s either not the same person as the guy in the pictures or he’s trying to scam you. One of the downsides of online dating is that people can pretend to be whoever they want to be, and there’s often no way to verify a person’s true identity apart from meeting them in real life. If they seem too good to be true, they probably are.
- Likewise, if someone has a profile with no information, it may be best to steer clear. Sure, there are people who don’t wish to share too much information about themselves online for the sake of their privacy. But, if a person is reluctant to share any information about themselves or a photo, it’s probably best to stay away.
- Avoid connecting with people far away. There are many scammers overseas or in places distant from you who will try to gain your trust online in order to get information or money from you. Try to keep your connections to people who you might feasibly be able to meet in person.
- Steer clear of anyone who asks you personal information about yourself like your address, birthdate, financial situation, or other details that could help someone steal your identity.
- Relatedly, take extra caution with people who ask you for money. Some scammers may get to know you, then ask you for money for an emergency. They’ll claim that you’re the only one who can help them, and that they’re desperate in order to get you to give in. It’s incredibly likely that anyone asking you for money via online dating is trying to scam you.
- Be wary of folks with odd or poor grammar. Of course, this isn’t always going to be true, but many people who try to scam elders are people from abroad who don’t speak fluent English. These folks will often use a translation service, sometimes resulting in odd word choices and grammar. If someone’s language seems odd, it may be best to take some extra precautions to make sure they’re not scamming you.
- Take your time getting to know people. There’s no need to rush into meeting in person or even to talk on the phone with someone you’ve met online. Exchange a few messages back and forth with potential suitors and be sure to trust your instincts if something about them doesn’t seem quite right.
- If you do opt to speak with a potential date on the phone, use a cellphone instead of your landline. Home phones are much easier to trace, meaning that someone could use your home telephone number to figure out where you live much more easily than your cell.
- Be cautious about folks who refuse to meet up with you in person. If a person claims that they’re constantly traveling or they avoid the conversation when it comes to actually meeting in the real world, it’s possible that they don’t actually have any intentions of meeting in person. It’s best to be a bit wary with folks who won’t meet you in real life.
Now, for the fun part! Say you’ve met someone you feel comfortable with online, enjoyed conversation with one another, and are ready to take it to the next level and meet in real life. Here are some precautions you should take when it comes to going on a date in person:
- Always meet in a busy public place. Ideally, you’ll have a great time together, enjoying a meal or a drink and getting to know one another. However, if things feel uncomfortable, being in public means knowing that you’ll have other people around who can help you if you sense that you’re not safe.
- Make sure someone knows where and when you’re meeting. Again, hopefully there won’t be any need to contact anyone else because you’ll be having such a lovely time. But, in the event that things don’t go well, it’s important that someone you trust knows exactly where you are so they can check up on you and make sure that you’re safe.
- Drive yourself or have someone drive you to your date. Having a date offer to drive you to where you’re going is a nice gesture, but in the event that something goes awry, it’s best that you have control over how you’re leaving and getting back to your home.
- Keep your wits about you. Alcohol is known for being a great social lubricant, but it’s best to stay sober for a first date in order to make sure you’re making good decisions about your actions and keeping yourself safe.
General resources on online safety for seniors
Now that you’ve got some great basic strategies for staying safe and maintaining your privacy online, here are some of our favorite resources to help you enjoy your social media experience:
- AARP TEK. The AARP provides online and in-person technology trainings for seniors. Check out their online course catalog to get access to online safety and social media training.
- AARP Elder Watch. The AARP also has a resource center that can help you recognize, report, and avoid scams. They’ve also got a hotline available for you to get advice if you come across something you’re uncertain about.
- AARP Fraud Watch Network. One more excellent resource from the AARP, the Fraud Watch Network can help you spot scams early and learn to protect yourself from identity theft. They’ve got a hotline for this that you can also call if you need to speak with someone.
- Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLI). There are hundreds of LLIs across the US, and many of them offer technology courses that can help you learn the ins and outs of using the internet.
- Social Media For Seniors. This book by Michael Miller is available on Amazon and is a super useful guide for seniors navigating the world of social media.
- Facebook For Seniors. This book is available in print or as an e-book and can teach you all the basics of using Facebook.
Learning how to use the internet safely may seem daunting, but engaging with social media and online dating should be a fun and pleasant activity for you. Follow the advice we’ve given you here, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying all of the amazing things the internet has to offer without anxiety or fear. After all, there are some truly wonderful people out there, and you’re just a few mouse clicks away from connecting with them.
Want more useful information like what we’ve presented here? We’ve got another super helpful article on our sister site called “Online Safety for Seniors: How to Spot Fake News, Medicare Fraud, and Phishing Scams” that provides much more detailed ideas for generally staying safe online. Plus, we regularly update our blog with articles to help you save money, stick to your budget, and stay safe while doing it. While you’re here, you’ll also want to head over to our homepage where we’ve answered thousands of questions about how to save money at all of your favorite retailers.