Cat Coode: Technically Speaking


Clever Tips from an Internet Expert: Keeping Seniors Safe Online

And why enlisting kids to help seniors is a great idea

by: Cat Coode
Clever Tips from An Internet Expert: Keeping Seniors Safe Online | YMCTech |

If you're like me, you're sitting in that sandwich generation between your young kids and your senior parents. My kids think they know everything about everything and my parents know what they don’t know. Sound familiar?

It's an interesting dichotomy, especially when it comes to technology. As the family ‘techie,’ and an internet expert, I'm always in a position of "teacher." For my kids it's to slow them down, and for my parents it's to catch them up.

From the technology side, it seems as though everyone, of every age, uses the internet in a different way, but the basics are actually the same. People are online to:

  • connect with family, friends, and create community
  • do things remotely like shop or book appointments
  • get instant answers from search engines
  • find entertainment through games and videos

You can help catch your parents up so they're capable of doing all these things, but have you thought about enlisting your kids to help?

Helping Seniors Navigate Cyberspace

A good starting point when bringing seniors up to speed is to download (or have them download!) the TELUS WISE Seniors Guide. This guide is a comprehensive, printable resource that will walk readers though everything they need in an engaging and simple way. It's a great tool to give your teen to review with a senior (and they’ll end up reviewing their own online savvy in the process!) TELUS also offers workshops especially for seniors, another option to help get them up to speed!

Tip: Since kids pick up tech well, they're in a great position to help direct seniors on how to do all of the things mentioned above. Kids can show seniors how to use a search engine or how to find family and friends on Facebook. And everyone loves a good Snapchat filter, that stuff is ageless.

Here are some other things you can teach both groups as they navigate learning the ins and outs of the internet together and how you can get your kids involved in the teaching (while they're also learning):

Teach Both Groups How Create a Positive Online Identity

Where all internet users need guidance is understanding the "reputation" side of being online. Everything we post online is potentially public and permanent. This is why it is important to use caution and set privacy settings. By teaching your kids and having them review these things with seniors, we empower the kids as teachers but still have both learning along the way. And for fun, ask a grandparent what photo or statement from their youth they are glad was not "internet preserved."

Tip: Every time you, your kids, or your parents sign up for a new network, spend a few minutes reviewing the privacy settings. By default, most networks will want you to share everything publicly.

Consider Proper Etiquette

My mom is not on Facebook (yet) but if she were, she'd be the grandmother that posts “that’s my cute grandson” on every photo of my 15-year old nephew. That happens with grandparents. A lot. Those well-intentioned seniors may not realize that all of their grandson's teenage friends are seeing those messages too.

Tip: Kids should take time to teach seniors the right etiquette on posts. Explain which technologies are private (texting, chat apps) and which are not (comments on Facebook or Instagram) . 

Watch Out for Email Scams

Seniors are the easiest prey for online scams because they often do not understand the technology well enough to know what scammers and thieves are capable of. In a very popular email scam, thieves use email names of friends and family to solicit money for an "emergency."The email reads something like this:

Sorry I forgot to tell you, but I took a last minute trip to <name of place> and I have run in to trouble! I had <incident> happen and now I have no credit cards or passport! Can you please wire <amount of money> to <scammers account> so I can get home?? Thank you!!”

Tip: This tip is helpful for wary if you receive an email asking for money from any source, especially if it contains no personal information like the recipient’s name.

Teach the benfits and pitfalls of being online

If you know a senior that is online or wants to be, take a few minutes of your time to help them understand both the benefits and the pitfalls. Even better, get your kids to do it with them!

  • Show them where to find things they care about online
  • Teach them how to use privacy settings and about online audience
  • Warn them about email and credit card scams
  • Help them define their online identity in a positive way

After you've done all these things, you can pat yourself on the back for doing double-duty as the awesome sandwich that you are.