Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP and engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults have created a series of fact sheets to provide older adults with tips and best practices to safely and securely engage online. The three fact sheets focus on browsing the internet confidently, protecting personal information online and socializing safely online.
Each fact sheet provides action steps to implement online safety best practices. To help instill confidence when browsing the internet, the first fact sheet, Online Safety for Older Adults: Browsing the Internet Confidently, reminds older adults to be aware of pop-up ads that can sometimes be hard to close, and to look out for “spoofed” websites that can resemble legitimate websites with only slight variations in the URL. It also includes action steps to identify secure websites and tips for evaluating information online.
Given the importance of the internet to daily life—conducting business, shopping, searching for information, attending online events and more—protecting personal information is essential. The second fact sheet in the series, Online Safety for Older Adults: Protecting Your Personal Information Online, offers steps to help older adults identify online scams including “phishing,” which are false messages designed to induce users to provide personal information. Older adults are reminded that as a rule of thumb sensitive information like a Social Security Number, banking information or credit card numbers should never be shared by email or on social media, and that pressure to act quickly without time to think is often a sign of a scam.
The third fact sheet in the series, Online Safety for Older Adults: Socializing Safely Online, offers action items for socializing safely online, including social media. Internet users should assume that anything posted on social media can be seen by the public, regardless of privacy settings. Action items address how to safely meet new people online, advising older adults to review profiles, conduct online searches to verify identities and utilize video chatting to weed out scammers. The fact sheet reminds consumers not to send money or gift cards to anyone they don’t know.
“The internet can be a tool for connection with family, friends and the broader community, so knowing how to safely engage online is critical,” said Meredith Hanley, Director, Community Capacity Building, USAging. “That’s why engAGED worked with OATS to develop online safety fact sheets for older adults. We hope the Aging Network and partner organizations share these fact sheets with those they serve.”
As with most of the things we do every day, there are risks associated with using the internet, but the benefits of enjoying online activities and connecting virtually outweigh the risks. Keeping in mind the tips and best practices presented in the fact sheets will help older adults explore and connect with others online safely and with confidence.
OATS is a subcontracted technology partner with engAGED and serves on engAGED’s Project Advisory Committee that guides the work of engAGED to help Aging Network and partner organizations expand and enhance their social engagement offerings.
Photo is taken from the engAGED fact sheets.