Online safety for the elderly

The internet is full of possibilities and opportunities to learn, make new friends and even find love. However, it’s also the perfect place for people to take advantage of the anonymity a computer screen offers. Most know that young teenagers are the ideal target for predators, but few think about online safety for older people.

The facts

Loneliness is one of the biggest issues the elderly face, and the internet can offer individuals a social life but it also increases your vulnerability. Social media usage is steadily increasing amongst the elderly as it is becoming a significant platform that allows people to connect and share their experiences.

But, if something or someone seems too good to be true, it usually is, so staying safe online should be a top priority.

How to stay safe

Family members worry about their relatives accessing the internet, and rightfully so! Here are some vital tips to promote online safety.

Go online with family members or carers

Going online can be daunting, but younger family members or carers can help you navigate the web and stay safe. Homecare Specialists Helping Hands list independence as one of the vital factors in ensuring the elderly have a satisfying life, and the internet offers people the chance to connect with others around the world. Having someone help you discover the internet means you can find out which websites are unsafe.

It’s important you go online with someone you can trust, as they might know your passwords and details of your finances. If you’re considering using a carer, make sure they’re from a reputable company and try to keep your passwords and account information private.

Know who you’re talking to

Online dating is one of the most popular ways to meet a partner, and there are plenty of websites that cater for senior citizens. It’s so easy to find a photo online, and create a persona but unless you’ve seen them in person, you don’t know if they are genuine. There are some horror stories about online dating, but common sense is all you need to stay safe.

  •   Always meet someone in a public place and never go to their house until you’ve spent time with them.
  •   Never give someone money, regardless of their personal circumstances. Scams are common online, and people of all ages have fallen victim to con artists.
  •   If you’re unsure about who you’re talking to, ask the person if they’d be willing to have a Skype conversation. Skype will enable you to hear and see the other person, so you’ll know if they’re genuine.

Keep your information secure

Hacking is a common issue online, but a secure password can protect your information. A strong password has at least eight characters consisting of upper case, lower case, special characters and numbers.

One of the most popular online scams, is email phishing. If you receive an email from your bank, or an organisation that has your personal information, never click on the link or send money. Many people will say you owe money, or ask you to confirm your account details, so they can access your finances. If in doubt, call your bank to check if they contacted you.

Know the risks

Websites either start with http or https, and most people don’t know what the difference is. If a website starts with https, it means it’s secure, but http websites might not be safe. But even an https website may be a fake, even though it’s secure.

If you’re shopping online, it’s best to use a credit card or a secure payment service such as PayPal. Using a reputable and secure payment services means you can clear up any disputes, such as unreceived purchases or companies accessing your accounts.

Be secure

The internet can be a scary place, especially if you’re using a smartphone. Some apps ask permission to find your location, so make sure you are using reputable apps with good reviews. These tips from the UK Safer Internet Centre will help you keep safe on your mobile device.

You should always configure your router to have its own unique password, so people cannot connect to the internet through your device. Ask a family member, carer or your internet provider to help you with your router settings.

The most important thing to remember is to use your common sense. Never be afraid to ask for advice and see if your local community centre runs internet courses for the elderly.

Ruby Clarkson is a freelance writer specialising in ‘elderly care, mental health, family issues and anything in between’


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