They’ve finally done it. After years of looking at your social media pages skeptically yet curiously, your older relatives have decided to take the plunge. Aside from fearing that they’ll finally find out about that tattoo you never divulged, you may be worried about their online safety.
It’s a predatory world out there, and while your older relatives have savvy to spare in real life, they may lack the digital literacy to stay safe online. Prominent social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which are becoming increasingly popular with older adults, are also fertile ground for scams, identity theft and malware.
Before your older relatives connect with old school friends and share memes about parenthood, they need a short, compassionate and patient lesson in online security. Here’s how you can help.
Explain What Makes a Strong Password
There might’ve been an age when ‘12345’ passed muster, but that’s certainly no longer the case for passwords. Explain to the older adult in your life the value of a strong password – how it is the first line of defense against unwanted access and identity theft.
Encourage them to choose a password at least 12 characters in length with various letters, numbers and symbols. Caution them against choosing something easily guessed by a close friend or family member (including yourself). If they want to write it down for reference, ensure they stow the written password somewhere safe.
Emphasize Vigilance to Avoid Scamming
Phishing schemes, scam ad campaigns, the PayPal fund transfer scam, the grant scam – the list of scams on Facebook alone is a long one.
It’s essential to emphasize vigilance on social media. Remind your relative to be wary of anything purporting to be ‘free.’ Warn them against giving away any personal information, even to someone who appears to be an acquaintance. If they are ever in doubt, they can always research a line of communication, brand, offer or promotion they receive; the internet is good about publicizing scams.
For Peace of Mind, Install Antimalware Software
Even strong passwords and relentless vigilance have the potential to fail. A single ill-advised click can reveal malware, phishing scams or fake sites. For peace of mind, encourage your relative to get antimalware software.
If you’re an Apple user, you may feel this step is unnecessary. But it’s important for you – and your relative – to keep in mind: Macs are just as vulnerable to malware as PCs. Install antimalware protection for your Mac that uses advanced antimalware technology. Get one that blocks malicious links, infected sites, and online scams, including phishing scams that trick may trick your relative into revealing personal information, like banking info. If you don’t have antimalware software yet, practice what you preach and get it for your own device.
Depending on where your relative gets their WIFI, you might also consider installing a VPN on their behalf. Some older adults may use unsecured Wi-Fi for social media at the library, a public hotspot or hotel, which can easily be hacked. A VPN encrypts their information, making it nearly impossible to intercept.
With a short tutorial in online safety and proven antimalware software in their corner, your relative can feel safe as they embark on their first foray into the interconnected, exciting (and sometimes maddening) world of social media.