Dear Donna:

My 84 year old grandmother recently got an iPad and started surfing the internet. She lives in northern Michigan away from all of her grandchildren. We think this will be a great way for her to stay connected. My husband and I are setting her up with an email account, but she also wants to join Facebook. I’m not sure where to start in giving her advice on what to be careful of when she is online. This is all brand new to her. Any tips?

Denise in Grand Haven, Michigan

Dear Denise:

Sounds like a good plan for helping your grandmother stay in touch with all of you! For someone new to the internet, there are a lot of potential risks to learn about to avoid becoming the victim of some type of a scam.

Here are a few tips from our web team to keep your grandmother safe online:

  • Use strong passwords on all accounts. The best ones are a combination of letters, characters and numbers. Her passwords should always be at least eight characters long. Never use family members’ names, the names of pets or other familiar terms that may be easy to guess.
  • Never open email from strangers. These are often spam and can lead to an account being hacked. Ones to be especially wary of have subject lines such as “You’ve Won…” or “Free for a Limited Time.”
  • Protect her home WiFi. If your grandmother will be working off of a home Wi-Fi, as most tablet users do, make sure the network has a strong password set up too. Having an unprotected network can make her vulnerable to hacking.
  • Shop with caution when online. Talk with her about the importance of shopping online only with security-enabled sites. Those are the online stores with a URL that begin with https://. The “s” signifies the data is encrypted in transit. Never enter financial information into a site that begins with http://
  • Facebook privacy and security. When you help your grandmother get set up and rolling on Facebook, be sure to enable her privacy settings and review those with her. Help her to set up her account so only friends can see her information. Encourage her not to accept Friend requests from people she doesn’t know. Doing so may lead to problems. A final Facebook tip is to caution her about what she posts. For example, she shouldn’t share that she is going to be out for an evening or gone on vacation.

We hope these tips are helpful to you Denise! I’ve also shared a few more resources for you to visit at the bottom of this page.