Social media is a whole new universe – or should we say Metaverse – for keeping people connected and entertained. But it also comes with increased risks and triggers that can make it especially dangerous for senior adults. At worst, it can be a place where scams and false information runs rampant. People may try to obtain private information in deceptive ways. At a minimum, too much time spent on social media can be linked to stress, depression, and a disconnect from reality. For senior adults who may already be at risk for isolation, social media may seem like a great way to stay connected from the comfort of home. But like any technology, it must be used carefully and correctly to remain a positive influence in our lives. Keep reading for simple tips to encourage aging loved ones to follow when using social media.
Limit your screen time.
This advice is applicable to everyone of all ages! We must limit our screen time. Not only do we consume media and entertainment from television and computers, but we also then spend much of our free time glued to our phones. When are we not looking at screens? If you don’t have a clear answer to this question, it’s time to put some limits on your screen time. Make it a goal to spend equal parts away from a screen as in front of one – and sleeping hours don’t count! This is harder than it seems and will quickly put into perspective the time you’re spending on social media or other screen-based technology.
Know how to assess information.
Does your aging loved one know how to assess the information coming across their social media newsfeed as real or fake? Being “news literate” is so important in our society – now more than ever. If you worry that opinionated or altered news and facts are being taken as the truth, it could be time to deliver your own crash course on how to test and trust the news we see on social media. Consider the source, consider their possible motives, and test it against what else you’re finding on the internet. These are just some places to start, but there’s much more advice available from a simple Google search.
Be aware of common scams.
Next, be sure your senior family member or friend is aware of common scams and how they work. Even if it’s something fairly harmless, like a fake account trying to engage with them, it can lead to more troubling scenarios quickly. Teach them to be skeptical, cautious, and when in doubt, stop engaging with a person or business who feels fishy. You must be your own best advocate and protect your privacy and security at every turn. The more you know how common scams work, the better you can protect yourself.
Understand basic etiquette.
Social media has also blurred a lot of lines when it comes to basic etiquette. How we engage with one another, the types of things we say in response to content other people share (even people we call friends!) and the opinions freely shared can do more harm than good. We come to social media to feel connected, not judged and isolated. It’s important to learn basic etiquette, which looks a lot like the etiquette you’d use in person. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online.
Have a trusted contact you can turn to for advice.
And most importantly, be sure any older adult using social media has someone they can turn to when they run into a question or concern. This could be as basic as getting locked out of an account, or as complex as feeling like you may be involved in a scam. It’s so important to have someone you trust who will quickly jump in, answer questions, find a solution, and never make you feel embarrassed for asking. Often, older adults feel embarrassed when it comes to technology. But it’s far more important to be safe! We should encourage one another to always speak up and seek advice when we feel like we’re in over our heads. That’s solid advice for every age and application!
Does this advice help shine a light on some areas you can improve in your own life? Which will be most beneficial for you or someone else you know? Let’s start a conversation on this important topic!