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Video chat apps like Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangout are wonderful tools that keep you connected to loved ones. In 2012 Microsoft and AARP released their Connecting Generations study which showed that today’s social technology like Skype and FaceTime helps families connect and improves inter-generational relationships. I’ve written about keeping children safe online but adults and especially older adults must take steps to stay safe and protect their privacy. Scammers specifically target seniors so grandparents enjoy this wonderful technology but learn to use it safely.

Start by creating a strong PASSWORD for your video chat application and all other online sites that you create. A strong password is one that will not be easily broken. It may also prevent others from hacking, or gaining access to the information on your computer. If you think using the word “password” for your password or the numerical sequence 1-2-3-4-5 is safe, think again. These passwords are among the most commonly used and easy to break passwords.

Many safety experts suggest using a three word phrase and modifying it to include letters with mixed cases, symbols and numbers. For example instead of “over ten million” – substitute numbers and symbols and vary the case, for example: oVer10mi$li0N.

With Skype you will create your unique Skype name and a password. FaceTime requires you to use your Apple ID and email address, and with Google Hangout you will need a Google+ account with your username and password.

PROTECT PERSONAL INFORMATION by opting out of entering your birth date, location or telephone number into the profiles of video chat and social media sites. This information may be available to the public. Skype does not require that you enter this information.

Your CONTACTS are those people that you know and want to communicate with. Manage your contacts carefully and don’t add any individual that you don’t know to your contact list. 

Look for the PRIVACY SETTINGS when using Skype and other apps. Select the option to allow calls, screen sharing, videos and IM (instant messages) only from those people in your contact list. With Skype you can locate the Password, Profile and Privacy settings by selecting the word Skype on the top left of the homepage. FaceTime is activated when you set up your Apple device. You can find the FaceTime settings by launching the Settings and tapping on the FaceTime button.

PROTECT YOUR COMPUTER with an antivirus program and a firewall. A firewall protects your computer from unauthorized access to or from your computer. A router can provide this firewall. Secure your WiFi router with a password so others will not have access to your computer.

Be on guard when you are using your computer or telephone. Never open ATTACHMENTS or click on links in email from someone that you don’t know. Something as simple as a cartoon or poem can carry viruses into your device. Even if you receive email from a person you recognize if there isn’t a message, other than a link, do not click on that link. Some of these links come from computers that have been hacked.

Enjoy connecting with family and stay safe. 

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