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Over 50 and oversharing: Boomers embrace tech

Boomers are embracing social media and smartphones, and some are making the same mistakes kids do, putting their identity -- and dignity -- at risk.

By Oct 25, 2013 12:32PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site logoGrandma and Grandpa are sexting? Yup, says a new survey of 50- to 75-year-olds conducted by security firm McAfee. The research suggests older social media and smartphone users are also oversharing at an alarming rate, putting them at greater risk for identity theft.

Businessman using smartphone © Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesMore than half of older Net users have shared their email address online, while a little more than one in four have published their cellphone number or their home address.

The group's bad habits extend to their smartphones, McAfee says: one in three don't password-protect their gadgets, meaning anyone who finds their lost iPhone or Android could have full access to any data on the device.

That might include the ability to spy on some embarrassing messages: 24 percent of older mobile consumers have used their device to send "intimate personal photos, texts, or emails," McAfee says. Respect your elders' privacy, kids.

"Thanks to social media, societal norms have undergone a seismic shift in the past five years," said McAfee's Robert Siciliano. "What was once considered private or even taboo is not only fair game, it’s expected. But this can have serious consequences from the ending of friendships to exposure to physical harm."

Unsafe computing habits follow the same learning curve as each demographic adopts a new technology -- the Web, email, social media, smartphones, etc. Something about new gadgets turns us all into naive kids again. We each have to get burned a few times before learning not to forward chain emails, not to enter a credit card number into a random website, and not to leave a cellphone on the table without password protection.

The older Americans who do go online are on there a lot, the survey indicates: Those 50 to 61 years old spend an average of 5 hours and 42 minutes online a day, compared to those 62 to 75, who spend 4 hours and 36 minutes online.

But not all older Americans are online: far from it. Still four in 10 Americans 65-and-older aren't online. But the ranks of older Net users are climbing: In 2004, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said only 22 percent of those 65 and older were online, compared to 53 percent in 2012, and 59 percent this year.

For McAfee’s survey, the firm hired The Futures Company to conduct a total of 1,258 online interviews in the U.S. among consumers ages 50 to 75 who spent at least one hour per week online. Interviews were distributed evenly by demographics.

"We all need to seriously think about some hard consequences of sharing too much personal information," Siciliano said. "Think about it . . . is that friend really a friend if you haven’t seen them in 25 years?"

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Oct 25, 2013 1:26PM
I don't do Facebook or Twitter. If I want to send out pix, I use email. I will admit to spending a good deal of time online for research, news and some gossip, but I also have an active face-to-face social life. Drives me crazy when I see everyone in a booth at a restaurant on their phones and not having an active conversation. I do use LinkedIn, but that is a great professional network. I like to keep my private life private.
Oct 25, 2013 3:16PM

Seriously, what is the matter with all of you on Facebook? Why would anyone post their entire life story? First, who cares? Secondly, narcissistic much?

Oct 25, 2013 2:25PM
If you are dumb enough to put private stuff on your phone or computer you deserve what you get if the info is leaked out.  I have seen marriages end due to this kind of info so if you are smart you will not leave a trail that can be traced.
Oct 25, 2013 3:07PM
I'm way over this take...I was born nine months after Pearl Harbor in inland S. California and sure, I have a prepaid cell phone for occasional calls.  Yes, I keep up with the digital tech out there and I don't have a passion for instant gratification. My yard wide Samsung HD tv is plugged into my PC and my sound system (Bose) fills the whole house.  
Oct 25, 2013 3:39PM
Not everyone over 50 is computer illiterate; I to be an IT professional   Sharing too much information offline, as well as on social media is risky for anyone.  You never know where it might end up or how it can come back to bite you. 
Oct 25, 2013 2:30PM
So the onset of senility starts at 60 and these people are doing what youngsters do as children?  So todays children are so useless because at their best they are like the rest of us after we lost our fastball.
Oct 25, 2013 3:47PM

People with tech addictions are the next group of "victims" to want a handout.


Oct 26, 2013 10:19AM
Interesting.  Most of the oversharing, addicted to cellphone wackos I see in public are all UNDER 50, in their teens and twenties.
Oct 27, 2013 12:30PM
I'm on Facebook and I'm a Boomer.  Right from the start I only friended people I was actually friends with, not everyone in my high school class. I don't friend coworkers, casual friends or neighbors and for the most part, it has been great.  Alot of photos, catching up with friends, etc.  I had to unfriend a couple of people who were obnoxious towards each other, other than that I have enjoyed it because I keep it simple, I have turned down friend requests because I don't know them well enough or because I don't like them.  I never feel pressured to friend everyone who asks, nor do I apology.  I play Words With Friends on my iPhone with friends and random people and that has been more fun than I could have imagined.  I think people who over share have always done it, with or without technology and that is just not me. 
Oct 28, 2013 2:57PM
Being a scientist, I try to stay up with tech.  I was the first one in my neighborhood to get cable TV, I bought Apple II Plus computer serial # 00809, I was using GasNet etc. with a 7 kbps modem before the internet became full-fledged and I even wrote the first animated adventure game.

But I only signed up for Facebook because I need the ID to post on certain message boards.  But on the rare occasions when I actually check my page, I'm appalled at the personal information friends put out that is openly displayed on my and others pages.  For example, when they're going on vacation and going to be away from home.

And I don't need to twit or tweet and let people know my thoughts - I'll email them.

I will admit I'm behind on using the Internet on cellphones and tablets.  I remember how happy I was when computer screens grew beyond 9" and don't want to go back: I'm typing this on a 17.3" screen laptop with a quad core processor, 640G HD, 6G RAM, Win 8, and all the bells and whistles.  It's an HP g7 Pavilion and cost me $399 in April: refurbished but passed back-through the assembly line.

I'm just getting to know Bluetooth since I decided to get one of those over-the-ear headsets to answer cellphone calls hands-free while driving.

Oct 25, 2013 1:24PM
Onset of senility starts at 60. So why not to share a little bit of porno before one forgets it at all
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