Social Network Drama Doesn't Stop  At 50, Study Says

The Surprising Mistake Post 50s Are Making Online

Just because they're considered "mature adults" doesn't mean post 50s are immune to the same kind of drama endured by teens on Facebook. A new survey conducted by the security technology company, McAfee, found four in five adults, ages 50-75, are active on social networks.

The majority, 75 percent, are active Facebook users. They're using the site to find long lost high school buddies, stay in touch with family and keep up with personal interests. That's the good part. Their behavior also puts them at risk of landing in some pretty hot water.

Just over 15 percent say they've experienced something negative on the site, including spats with friends and significant others sometimes leading to serious actions like defriending. They're also being worryingly trusting with sharing personal information online -- a trend that's common for social media users across the board.

More than half of the respondents said they've shared or posted personal information like addresses and cell numbers online, despite many saying they are aware of the security risks of online networking. This could be because people who use Facebook several times a day are 43 percent more likely than other Internet users to say they "feel that most people can be trusted," a 2011 Pew Research study found.

According to Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer at McAfee, the discovery that this confident, self-proclaimed tech-savvy group exhibits high-risk online behavior is reason to raise awareness.

“The use of social networks among people 50+ is trending now that it’s become more commonplace across all age groups,” said Dennedy. “It seems counterintuitive that sharing personal information with strangers would not concern them, however. This further highlights their need to better understand the difference between the real and perceived dangers online and how to best protect themselves."

And they're not just accessing the Internet and social networks from their clunky desktop computers. Just under 40 percent of post 50s are surfing the web using tablets and smartphones. Research shows they're actually the fastest growing segment of smartphone users.

They're no strangers to "sexting"
A surprising 24 percent of mobile users admitted they've sent intimate or personal photos, texts or emails at some point. So you'll want to think before you decide to use your parents' cell phones to make a call, especially as a third of them aren't putting password protection on their devices.

While older Internet users show no sign of slowing down with their social media and mobile usage, McAfee suggests they ensure their personal information is secure by making sure all Internet connected devices have up-to-date security software installed.

For the survey, the Futures Company conducted a total of 1,258 online interviews in the United States among consumers ages 50-75. Interviews were distributed evenly by age and gender.

Here are a few other key findings:

-- Overall, 57 percent claimed they have shared and/or posted personal information online. Email addresses (52 percent), cell phone numbers (27 percent), and even home addresses (26 percent) have all been shared by these 57 percent (excluding instances where this information was necessary for online purchases).

-- About 80 percent of smartphone users and 43 percent of tablet users post mobile photos online.

-- Another 24 percent admit to using their devices to send personal or intimate messages in the form of text, email, or photo messages.

-- Yet, more than one-third of them (33 percent of smartphone users and 38 percent of tablet users) admit to having no password protection on their devices to safeguard these risqué conversations from reaching the public.

-- While nearly all (93 percent) say their laptops and desktops have updated security software, only 56 percent of smartphone users and 59 percent of tablet users say their devices are protected from viruses and malware.

How do you stay safe on the Internet? What do you think of the findings? Let us know in comments.

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