Are Seniors Safe Socializing & Dating Online?: The Social Media Privacy Report

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A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that social media isn’t just for the younger sect. According to an article on nj.com that examined the trend of seniors using social media, social networking among Internet users ages 50 and up has nearly doubled in the past year! In 2009, 22% of seniors were using sites like Facebook and Twitter; in 2010, that number jumped to 42%. In fact, the article even notes that that the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook is the women over the age 55 segment.

Nataki Edwards, vice president of marketing at AARP, commented in the article, “I think there is a real opportunity with the older people. The social networking bug has bitten them, and I think these numbers will continue to increase… E-mail is an entry point for a lot of them, and (usage) is increasing even more with the spread of mobile and tablet usage.”

Seniors Find Love Online

And this growth for seniors has especially spread into the realm of online dating as is evidenced by the recent launch of  OurTime.com, a dating site specifically targeting to seniors aged 50 years and older. With more than one million active members at its launch earlier this month, the site combines two former single sites for this more mature demographic, SeniorPeopleMeet.com and SeniorsMeet.com. According to a recent press release, IAC, the organization operating the site, has done significant research of the senior segment over the past two years and has seen a 400% increase in the membership of online dating networks for seniors.

“This growing segment has clearly embraced online dating,” said Greg Blatt, CEO of IAC. “To complement the broad-based experience enjoyed by so many over 50 on Match.com, we’re offering the more targeted experience of OurTime.com. We expect substantial growth to continue with this group across both properties.”

While no specific figures are given to back up the data, the release claims the site sees a daily average of more than 300,000 communications exchanged by senior members.

Online Dating Safety

Whether you are 21 or 81, if you are meeting a potential partner through an online dating website you must take safety precautions. Here are some of the hot tips from one of the biggest names is online dating, match.com; follow them to guard your identity and to keep yourself safe if and when you decide to meet a date in person:

  • Never share your personal and/or financial information
  • Don’t send or wire money to anyone you meet online
  • Keep your credit card number and banking information to yourself
  • Protect private details like your Social Security number and address
  • Remain anonymous until you feel comfortable
  • Protect your online access information
  • Get to know the other person online before meeting them offline
  • Always meet in public, keep your belongings in sight and stay sober
  • Arrange your own transportation to and from your meeting location

While it is a user’s responsibility to make sure they remain secure and safe while testing the waters of online dating, there are a few sites out there that are beefing up their security measures. According to cnet.com, the aforementioned match.com plans to start screening members against a national sex offenders registry.

And just one week after this announcement, another dating website called Romance Reality Check came into the spotlight. According to this press release, the site was designed to allow users to confirm important information about potential matches with a background check through criminal records and address history. The co-founder of the site, John McCarty, a retired police officer, stated, “We hear horror stories all the time of people being ripped off by con-artists and people being physically assaulted by someone they met online. Meeting someone who has a criminal record or is married also seems to be a fairly routine occurrence.”

Are you a senior who is using social media sites or online dating? Why do these sites appeal to you? Do you feel that your identity is safe and secure; do you believe you are hindering your privacy?

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.