Learning to use the internet
The internet is a powerful tool that can teach and empower people of all ages from around the world – you can connect with friends and family, shop, research, check the news and be entertained, all from your home computer or tablet.
The internet has literally changed the way we do almost everything, and today more and more over 50s are embracing this new technology and going online. Even if you didn’t grow up with computers, once you’ve learned the basics browsing the web is easy to master and offers endless possibilities for information, shopping, staying in touch with friends and family, games and a lot, lot more.
One of the biggest concerns for seniors as they navigate the internet is safety; it’s not uncommon to hear stories of identity theft and scams. Understanding the risks online will help you to become a smart web user and use this amazing tool to its fullest. As you get started it’s important to remember a few basic tips:
- Create strong passwords: While it might be tempting to use the same password for everything, this can make you vulnerable. Choose different passwords and create ones that aren’t easy to guess – try a combination of capital and lower case letters and numbers. Tools like Microsoft’s password checker can help you make sure you’re on the right track.
- Be cautious over email: Online criminals often use email to target vulnerable web users and gain their personal information. Use common sense and never open an email attachment or email link from someone you do not know – these can contain malware, which can damage your computer or track your activities. If you think you may have fallen victim to fraud or want to learn more about common scams, Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre.
- Keep your details private: With the rise of social networks like Facebook, it’s easier than ever to share private information online. Be aware of how much you’re telling others through emails, social networking sites and forums – even if you know and trust the person you’re communicating with, there is always the risk the information could fall into the wrong hands. Never share passwords or bank details with anyone, and avoid sharing personal details like your address or phone number with strangers.
There’s no one right or wrong way to use the internet, and even the most active users are finding new and exciting things to do online every day. Some of the most common uses include:
- Shopping: These days you can use the internet to shop for just about anything, from a pair of trousers to a limited edition collector’s item. Amazon.com is an online marketplace that specialises in books and electronics – but you can find almost everything under the sun here, and often at a great price. For more unique purchases, online auction portal eBay unites sellers and buyers from around the world. Most traditional retailers also have an online store as well, and shops like John Lewis offer the option to collect in store or choose home delivery.
- Reading the news: Reading the news is another advantage of going online. Sites like the BBC are updated 24 hours a day and are a great place to find breaking news. Almost every national newspaper, including the Guardian and The Telegraph will also have a website that updates the daily news, and some even offer subscriptions so you can read the full paper online.
- Meeting new people: The internet is also an excellent way to meet new people who share your interests – you can find communities for your hobbies, look up old friends, connect with family members using tools like email and Skype, and even meet a new love interest through online dating websites like eHarmony that specialise in over 50s dating.
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