Rules – for social media? But aren’t the web and, especially, social media supposed to be all about freedom and flexibility?
Guidelines may be a better word — guidelines to maximize the benefit seniors can get from social media while avoiding those pitfalls that can come with online activity.
We discussed the benefits of social media to seniors, even the elderly, and their family members in prior posts and podcasts. You can find those here if you want to look back.
Senior Care Corner is still actively advocating that family members urge their older loved ones to get onto social media and assist them in doing so. For their sake, and sometimes for the benefit of their loved ones, let’s help them do it safely.
Here are some guidelines we feel are important for seniors to consider when using social media. “Consider” is the key word here, as we realize individual situations are often different. Those familiar with social networks and the web may be safe with fewer guidelines while newcomers, especially those of a very trusting nature, may initially need to take a more structured approach in their social media activities.
Senior Social Media Guidelines
- Use tighter privacy settings on your initial setup than you might think are needed. These can be loosened over time if desired, but once a post or a picture is put out to a broad circulation it may be out there permanently.
- Before “friending” teen family members (your social network probably doesn’t allow preteens), make sure your approach is welcome. Yes, improving communications with grandchildren and other young family members is a big benefit of social media for seniors, but only if they choose to communicate with you. Some have expressed they feel uncomfortable when older family members can see all of their posts. Yes, they can refuse to accept your request to link up, but you can avoid an uncomfortable situation all around if you check on their willingness up front – or wait for them to send the request to you.
- Wait a while before clicking on links or attachments included on posts from friends. Even a trusted family member (of any age) may unwittingly trigger a virus or other malicious program that sends out posts in their name that include links which can be damaging to your computer or even result in identity theft. Give a little time for others to click first rather than being the family guinea pig.
- Exercise caution when naming family members in stories or tagging them in pictures you post on social media. Those cute family stories or pictures that give everyone a good laugh during family gatherings may not be viewed the same way by an employer making hiring or retention decisions. Also, there are signs other businesses, such as insurance companies, are using online information in making decisions.
- Never (one of the few times we think this word applies!) send personal or financial information (account numbers, social security numbers, etc) to businesses using social media. Many scammers masquerade as legitimate companies to get seniors’ information online, just as on the phone, with identity theft often the objective. Companies with a legitimate need for the information know social networks are not safe for sharing such data and will use other methods.
- Avoid posting that you will be away from home or out of town on your social media accounts unless you are absolutely certain only those you want will be able to see it. Crooks use social networks, too, and have already started targeting the homes of those who say they are away.
- Think before “checking in” at a location on your social networks. Will that check in tell a criminal that you will be away from home all day at an event or even for a few hours at a movie or ball game. If you like checking into locations, consider doing so when leaving (and say so) instead of arriving.
- Don’t mention in a public social media post that you are home alone. This is especially important for the elderly or those who are bedridden or otherwise vulnerable. That is almost as attractive to criminals as nobody home, and sometimes more because there is someone who can tell them where to find the valuables or even give them ATM PINs, etc.
We hope these guidelines don’t scare off your senior loved ones, or even you, from using social networks as the benefits of social media to senior loved ones can be tremendous as long as it is used safely.
Did we leave out any guidelines you feel would be helpful? If so, please let us know in a comment here or on our Facebook page and we will be sure to add them in a future post.