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Online Safety For Seniors

Tammy Gordon (Washington, DC) –

According to a new AARP state survey, older Washingtonians are the fastest growing age group on the popular social networking site. But while connecting with family and grandkids, and reaching out to old friends are at the top of their online agenda, the report also revealed seniors are worried about online safety in social media.

To help Washington seniors “Get Connected,” AARP and Microsoft held a free event on social media on Thursday, October 20, 2011, where a capacity crowd of more than 325 seniors packed the conference center at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA.

At the Get Connected event, participants learned how to use social media to connect with old friends, make new ones, and communicate with their younger relatives. They also learned how to participate in online causes and volunteer activities, discussion groups and blogs, and how to use social media to simply have fun. Marsha Collier, author of Facebook and Twitter for Seniors for Dummies gave participants a crash course in the two popular social networking sites. Representatives from Microsoft presented sessions on safer socializing on the internet, video chat, and how to make your computer easier to see, hear and use.

In the true spirit of social media, hundreds of additional participants also participated virtually through a livestream on AARP’s Facebook page. “While some people may shy away from new technologies, our members have been clamoring for information on how to log in to the social media world,” said AARP Communications Director Jason Erskine. According to Erskine, the full event will be available soon along with tip-sheets and how-to-guides on AARP’s website (AARP.org).

According to AARP’s new report, “The New Social Clicks,” 70% of online Washingtonians age 45+ have at least one social networking account, and more than 50% joined a social network like Facebook within the last two years. Facebook, LinkedIn, and online communities related to hobbies or personal interests are the most popular social networking sites.

Nearly six-in-ten (56%) online Washingtonians age 45+ say they have a Facebook account, and older adults are flocking to the site in increasing numbers. According to the report, respondents age 65+ are the fastest growing age-group in the state joining Facebook. The most common reasons given among all respondents for using Facebook include keeping in touch with friends (86%), extended family members (78%), and to connect with people from their past (67%).

But while older adults are going social in increasing numbers, 84% of survey respondents say they are concerned about online safety. “Social media is a great way to connect with others,” said Erskine, “but there are some simple steps you should take to stay safe.” Erskine reminded users to:

• Don’t automatically trust that a message is who it says it’s from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they’re from friends. Be especially suspicious of invitations to join other social networks.

• Be selective about who you accept as a friend. Identity thieves may be looking to get personal information about you.

• Be careful in what you post about yourself. Scammers may surf your site looking for clues to steal your passwords or security information.

The final word on the value of social media is still out though. According to AARP’s survey, two-thirds or respondents say social networking websites are a great way for people to stay in touch, but two-in-five say they are a “waste of time.”

Tammy Gordon is the Director of Social Communications and Strategy for AARP in Washington, DC. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. Follow @AARPtech for information about technology and design for people aged 50+, and follow Tammy at @floridagirlinDC.

Art credits: Mike Licht, Knight Foundation

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