Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Embracing Social Media: Best uses and how to avoid being scammed

Everyday more and more seniors are logging on to their computers, smart phones or tablets. Until recently email was the predominant utilization of technology among this crowd. However, a landmark study from The Pew Research Center conducted in 2012 showed one of three internet users now include use of social media and seven of ten seniors own a cell phone.

Why so popular? Social media is a great way to stay connected. Loved ones that live across the country, physical limitations or lack of transportation can contribute to social isolation which can lead to depression, fear and stress.

Technology and use of social media can keep users engaged, supported and informed. Social network sites are web-based services where users can create and post a public profile. You can also search profiles of other users. Once you locate another user from your search you have the option to add their content, like photos or videos, to your profile. In turn this creates an online community of people connecting with others of common interest. The most popular gatherings being Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs.

To enjoy all the benefits of joining the online community you will want to learn the basics of social media. Many local libraries and community centers offer computer classes and SeniorNet.org, a non-profit organization, has online learning resources as well. There are many books on the subject as well, though you could always ask a younger family member or friend. My niece and younger colleagues have taught me about Twitter and how to navigate my smart phone!

Although it is fun to connect with others on social media sights you will want to follow these safety tips from Microsoft: Read these tips to help protect yourself when you use social networks.

Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social website. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would links in email messages. (For more information, see Approach links in email with caution

Limit how much detailed personal information you post about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the "Forgot your password?" link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, home town, high school class, or mother's middle name. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don't draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search. For more information, see: 

What was the name of your first pet?

What is screen scraping?

Take charge of your online reputation

Don't trust that a message is really from who it says it's from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they're from your friends, but aren't. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent,
use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks. For more information, see Scammers exploit Facebook friendships.

To avoid giving away email addresses of your friends, do not allow social networking services to scan your email address book. When you join a new social network, you might receive an offer to enter your email address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. The site might use this information to send email messages to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you've ever sent an email message to with that email address. Social networking sites should explain that they're going to do this, but some do not.

Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you click a link to your site through email or another website, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen. For more tips about how to avoid phishing scams, see Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself.

Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves might create fake profiles in order to get information from you. Choose your social network carefully. Evaluate the site that you plan to use and make sure you understand the privacy policy. Find out if the site monitors content that people post. You will be providing personal information to this website, so use the same criteria that you would to select a site where you enter your credit card.

Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer. And always, think twice before you use social networking sites at work. For more information, see Be careful with social networking sites, especially at work.

Otherwise, happy tweeting, friend-ing, following, sharing and liking!  

Sunrise Senior Living: Using technology to Stay in Touch

Huffington Post: Senior Technology

Sixty And Me: Technology is the Door to a Better Life after 60

SeniorNet.OrgFounded in 1986; offers discounts on computer-related and other products and services; holds regional conferences for volunteers; and collaborates in research on older adults and technology. 

Leist, A. K. (2013). Social media use of older adults: A mini-review. Gerontology, 59, 378–384. doi: 10.1159/000346818 

Xie, B., Watkins, I., Golbeck, J., & Huang, M. (2012) Understanding and changing older adults' perceptions and learning of social media. Educational Gerontology, (38)4, 282-296. doi:10.1080/03601277.2010.544580 

Zickuhr, K., Madden, M. (2012). Older adults and internet use: For the first time, half of adults 
age 65 and older are online. Retrieved from  http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Older-adults-and-internet-use.aspx

Author: Susan Polka RN, BSN, CCRN, is a registered nurse with over twenty years experience in health care. She has worked in long term care, community health, and acute care settings. She currently works as a clinical educator and assistant director of an inpatient nursing unit.

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