Boomers not immune to social media risks, survey says

Published On October 24, 2013 | By mike | News

A new study from internet security giant McAfee, Inc. has found 50 to 75-year-olds are using social media in ever-growing numbers but may not know how to protect themselves.

According to the survey, 80 per cent of the 50-75 age bracket use social media daily while 57 per cent of those fessed up to revealing personal information online.

Shared personal information, anything from cell phone numbers and email addresses to a user’s home address, increases the likelihood of identity theft, the survey found.

The study found that 27 per cent had posted their home address, while 26 per cent had publicly shared their cell phone numbers.

Mark Farmer is a digital strategist in York University’s Strategic Communications department. He said that while there are specific concerns for both younger and older demographics, the situations can be different.

Anyone can be duped, and there’s no easy way to ensure your safety.

“I think older people are sometimes surprised that search engines and ad providers such as Google capture browsing information that is used to customize ad delivery,” he told Humber News.

“Digital natives have grown up understanding threats such as phishing, identity theft and so on, so they are probably a little more aware of it.”

While elementary and high schools often provide training for the younger generation, boomers come to social media with little to none — something which can leave them vulnerable, unaware of the platform’s dangers.

“The last time I checked, 50+ demographics were the leading growth demographics for Facebook,” Farmer said.

“Younger audiences, such as those in the 18-29 demographic, generally gravitate more towards newer platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram and Vine, and appear to be moving away somewhat from Facebook,” he said.

Farmer said there is a level of naivete in both groups, but the older generation doesn’t have the protection of their parents.

“Young kids aren’t sophisticated in their online abilities and are supposed to be protected from this by parents and filters. However, older people usually aren’t so protected. So I’m less concerned about a 50-something’s behaviour as I am by a 70-something’s, for example. That’s where I sometimes see a real lack of understanding of threats online, whether it’s email scams, link-baiting or what-have-you.”

While the survey emphasizes baby boomers, Farmer advised all social media users be more aware of their social media usage.

“The best broad advice I ever gave people was probably a) Not to say anything online you wouldn’t want to see in a newspaper the next day and b) Don’t share personally-identifiable information online unless you want the world to know it,” Farmer said.

“Anyone can be duped, and there’s no easy way to ensure your safety, so don’t treat social media like private media: they’re not the same.”

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