Maybe you’re on Facebook to keep up with old friends. Maybe your family is spread far and wide and social media is how to best stay current with their lives. Or maybe you just love the daily stream of pictures and tidbits people choose to share. It helps us all stay in the loop. It helps everyone feel a little bit closer to the ones they hold dear.
Except: if you’re not following a few precautions, you could be sharing with others, too — people you’ve never heard of or ghosts from the past you’d rather not have anything to do with anymore. Chances are, there are even people in your present life you’d just as soon not run into on Facebook.
This does not mean you should stop using Facebook. It’s a great tool for socializing, which is very important for people of all ages. Read about the benefits of socializing (on or off Facebook) for baby boomers and seniors.
Luckily, there’s a solution to those privacy and security issues. Follow these 5 tips to make your Facebook experience safer.
1. Keep strangers from viewing your posts.
Since privacy is a top concern, one of the first actions you’ll want to take is to limit what strangers can see. This taps into our innate feelings of self-preservation, comfort, and security. In the physical world, we share our lives with friends and family, not strangers. For a better online experience, do the same with Facebook.
Here’s how to safeguard your Facebook experience on your desktop or laptop computer:
- Go to Settings. In the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook account, there’s a drop-down arrow. Click it and then choose “Settings.”
- Go to “Privacy.” On the left menu, click the Privacy option.
- Once you’re on that screen, choose to edit the section called “Who can see your future posts?”
- Choose “Friends.” You may also choose any the following instead, as they’re all preferable to the “Public” option that allows anyone with a Facebook account to see your posts:
a. Friends except…
b. Specific friends
c. Only me
f. Your geographic area
- Limit access to past posts, too. For the section that reads: “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?” Choose “Limit Past Posts.” Otherwise, your history is there for all to see.
If you want to do this on your Facebook iPad, iPhone, or Android app, it’s very similar:
1. Login to the app.
2. Go to the top right corner.
3. Click the down facing arrow.
4. There you will find a similar menu as the one described above with options like:
· Privacy Checkup
· Who can see my profile info?
· Who can see my stuff?
· Who can contact me?
· How do I stop someone from bothering me?
It does not matter where you make changes to your account, whether it is your computer, tablet, or cellphone. All changes will be saved to your account and help protect your privacy on Facebook.
2. Limit how people find and contact you.
If you leave the default settings, anyone with your phone number can look you up on Facebook. This may or may not trigger alarms in your mind, but it’s better to trust the general consensus on this: it’s a bad idea to leave that connection open.
Let’s say you go every week to get your hair done. Your beautician is a lovely person, someone you trust and with whom you enjoy chatting with. But the girl who rents the other chair in the salon is an unknown element. She can get your phone number from the salon’s appointment book, then look you up on Facebook to find out all about you… where you live, who you live with, when you’re on vacation, whether you have pets.
Are you comfortable letting strangers know these things about you?
To maintain privacy, put up a security wall between your phone number and your Facebook account. Allow that lookup feature to be used only by your friends. Apply the same restrictions for your email address. If you leave the default settings, anyone with the email address you provided Facebook can look you up that way, too.
To control these settings, follow the instructions above to the same “Privacy” section. You will find all options there.
Another quick tip – Facebook should not be used as a tool to meet new people or search for a relationship. Facebook is for finding people who are pre-existing friends or family. If you want to meet new people, look for events that your friends or family on Facebook are planning to attend and ask if you can tag along. If you want to look for a relationship, visit one of the many safe online dating sites available for baby boomers and seniors. Read this article about online dating advice for 50 plus individuals.
3. Avoid These Common Scams
If you act on each of the above tips you’ll be in pretty good shape as far as privacy goes. But now it’s time to really beef up security. Although you’re limiting what appears in your feed to updates from people you know, there are still lots of ways scammers can reach you.
One of those ways is through your friends! They may not realize it, but the things they share with you could have suspicious links. Another possibility is that one of your Facebook friends’ accounts get hacked. That may explain why Cousin Polly is suddenly sharing links to inappropriate videos. Or why your 12-year-old grandson is sharing links to kitchen gadgets or life insurance —products he’d never use.
Below are some common scams that can lure you into their traps by getting you to click on their links. The key to staying safe is to be careful when you click on links on Facebook.
· Free downloads. Criminals try to get credit card information or other sensitive data so they can steal your identity. A common technique is to get you to click on a link that takes you to a website for a free download. The download includes malware that can harvest personal information from your computer.
· Unsafe websites that ask for personal information. Other links you might click will take you to bad websites that trick you into entering your personal info. You may have been tempted by celebrity clickbait, making it hard to resist entering your credit card. Common sense may keep you from falling for this, but you’d be surprised by how many people simply must find out what happened to that aging pop singer or that once-famous movie star!
4. Use strong passwords
Seems like a no-brainer to use strong passwords, but we all know how frustrating it is to forget them, so we tend to use dangerously simple ones. As tempting as it may be, the solution is NOT to use an easy-to-remember password.
To combat this dilemma, you can write down your password or use a password manager tool like LastPass. Some people write down their password leaving out the last 4 characters. That way, you benefit from a strong password and you don’t have to worry about somebody finding that little slip of paper where you wrote it down. Tools like LastPass allow you to create one password for their program, and then the program automatically generates (and remembers) long, intense passwords for platforms like Facebook.
To create a strong password:
· Make it longer than eight characters
· Include not just letters but also numbers and special characters (&,#,$ etc)
· Don’t include actual words, or important dates like your birth year, or anything like a street name that has meaning to you
5. Set up alerts for suspicious login attempts
One very real concern with Facebook is that hackers are trying to get into your account. It’s easy to limit your exposure to that type of risk, because Facebook allows you to set up login notifications.
Every time someone tries to access your account from a computer that’s not your own, Facebook will send you an alert. It’s your choice how you want them to tell you about these login attempts: email, text message, or push alert on your mobile phone.
The instructions are similar to those you used to limit who can see your stuff…
1. Go to “Settings”
2. Click on “Security and Login”
3. Choose your preference. Click on “Get alerts about unrecognized logins.”
Bonus Tip: Get Off Facebook
This may seem like an odd tip for an article focused on how to improve your Facebook experience, but the best way to truly enjoy Facebook is to limit the amount of time you spend on the social network. Spending more time on Facebook will not necessarily make you happier, and may in fact have the inverse reaction. Log onto Facebook once or twice a day at the most, possibly even only a few times a week. This will make the experience exciting. You will not be constantly refreshing your news feed, looking at the same posts.
Engage in activities, socialize, and take pictures that you can post to Facebook later. This will make your Facebook experience more fun. Now that you have all your privacy settings in place, you can post pictures or recap your day without worrying about who may see your post.
Facebook was not created so that people could spend their lives staring at a screen. It was created so people could share the exciting events of their lives. Looking for new hobbies (or more activities that you can post about on Facebook?) Check out this article about fun and quirky retirement hobbies for you and your friends.
Facebook can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch with friends and family. The site is constantly working to keep everyone safe and to provide a better experience, too. However, there’s no substitute for learning these basics and taking control of your own security and privacy. You’ve made the right move by following these precautions. Here’s to all your future sharing on Facebook — safe, private, and secure!