There has been a lot of discussion about whether the Internet is a benefit or a burden. Some see its limitless potential to connect us, and others are apprehensive about how it affects everything from our in-person relationships to industries like publishing and retail. One way to make up your mind is to try the Internet out for yourself— it doesn’t take too much tech savvy to get started, and you might find that, like 58% of seniors who surf the web, it has the potential to broaden your horizons beyond, say, Charlotte, North Carolina, and give you a way to explore people, places, and things all over the world.
Play chess or Scrabble with fellow gamers in England or Alaska, learn new gardening techniques, read movie reviews, discuss politics and religion with people all over the United States, find new crossword puzzles, preorder books, or even learn a new language! One of the best features of the Internet that many seniors log on for is in order to stay in touch with loved ones who live far away and make sure they’re involved in their communities. Seniors can sometimes feel as if their worlds get smaller after retirement, which is why senior living communities like Regency Charlotte can have such great appeal, with plenty of fellow neighbors, activities, and excursions to bring residents together. The Internet can be yet another way to expand your horizons and try new things that you might not have gotten to try while you were busy with work and the kids, or learn about new topics, like what your grandchildren are into this week.
While there are many benefits to online access, there are some downsides, too. When the postal service was first invented, criminals quickly found ways to use it to scam people, and the same is true of when telephones became wide spread. As technology takes leaps and bounds, so do new types of crime. However, there are a number of ways that you can keep your personal information safe and enjoy the best of the web while keeping the worst out of your life.
You can start by signing up for an email account with a service that has strong security and spam filters, like Google Mail or Yahoo Mail. This will protect you from having to deal with most of the junk mail you receive. You can also choose a strong password that will be hard for cyber criminals to hack. It’s best if it’s a random assemblage of symbols, numbers, and letters that doesn’t add up to a word as do, for example, “grandma1982” or “ILoveCarolinaPanthers777.” Your password should be eight characters or more.
It’s also a good rule of thumb never to open email attachments or download files from suspicious sites, unknown senders, or pop-up windows. Sometimes files may download automatically. If so, you should immediately delete them. If you receive an email message from a stranger with a suspicious looking file, you should mark the message as spam so your email program will know to filter messages like it in the future. If a message appears to be from someone you know, but you aren’t 100% sure, check in person or over the phone. Scam artists may use innocuous statements like “How are you doing?” or “I just wanted to check in on you” to appear like concerned friends or family and lure you into a conversation through which they will try to build on your trust and get you to share information like your insurance, credit card, or bank account numbers, or agree to transfer money online or through a wire transfer program.
Install and regularly update your firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software, such as McAfee Anti Virus or Norton. If you have any questions about this software, or other computer-related questions, a trusted resource can be your local computer store, like the Apple Store at SouthPark or Northlake Malls, or Best Buy. You can also talk to a tech-savvy friend or family member in your close circle if you need pointers or aren’t sure if a site or email is trustworthy.
Last, you should have a healthy sense of skepticism for what you read on the Internet. Not everything is professionally written and vetted, and you might run across misinformation or marketing copy that is designed to get you to buy in to items that aren’t what they appear or won’t function as promised. The Internet is a great place to learn about new things, but double check to make sure that sensitive topics like banking, medical advice, stock numbers, or product reviews are credible and accurate. Sites that end in .edu or .gov are more likely to be legitimate and the information solid.
Enjoy using the Internet safely and with savvy to try and learn new things, and stay connected with the wider world around you!