How to Stay Safe on Facebook

Q. I recently went to my 50th high school reunion, and it seemed like many of the people there still knew each other — even those who lived on different sides of the country and hadn’t seen each other in years. I was excited to see everyone but felt out of the loop because I am not on Facebook. My daughter showed me how to use Facebook and it seems easy enough, even for someone who is not tech-savvy like me! She has asked me repeatedly to join to see pics of the grandchildren, and to connect with old students (I was a teacher before I retired), but I am hesitant due to privacy concerns. When my daughter was showing me how Facebook works, I looked up Farr Law Firm on there, and noticed that you have more than 31,000 people following your page, and that you are sharing lots of news stories for seniors like me, and caregivers! I do see all the benefits of joining, but I am still wary. If I do decide to go ahead and join Facebook, how can I stay safe and maintain my privacy?

A. Many older Americans enjoy Facebook as an easy way to stay in touch with rarely seen friends and family members. Some seniors use Facebook to see pics of their children, grandchildren, and friends, share stories, recipes, and gardening tips, follow news channels and politicians, play games such as Words with Friends, and much more. However, the well-publicized scandals regarding fake news and the misuse of personal information have caused many people to wonder if they should avoid the site.

According to AARP, recent upgrades made by Facebook have reduced some of the privacy concerns. And, by taking a few actions on your own, you can protect yourself on Facebook and take advantage of the many features and benefits it offers and the connections it provides.

Upgrades Made by Facebook

To clarify some of the changes, let’s look at some of the upgrades that have recently been made:

· Decrease in the number of questionable news stories on the site: Facebook has made a concerted effort to eliminate so-called “news sites” which were known to share fake news stories in the past. They have also supplemented their computer screening systems with more real human beings who review items shared on the site, and the company has made it easier for users to report phony stories.

· More privacy options: Facebook recently announced they will be rolling out one centralized page which will allow users to control their privacy and security settings. Until they do, the information below will help you protect your privacy yourself.

How To Protect Your Privacy on Facebook

In addition to the increased security measures taken by Facebook, most users will find it helpful to take a few simple steps to protect their private information and make it easier to focus on the Facebook posts which interest them the most. Below are a some of the actions you should consider:

1. Adjust your privacy settings. At the top of your Facebook page, you will see a question mark in a dark circle. Click on it. About halfway down the pop-up menu you will see “Privacy Checkup.” Click on it and a new box will open up. Make sure you choose “only me” or “friends” for everything. You should not choose “public” for any of your settings. While you are there, remove any unfamiliar apps which you do not want accessing your information.

2. Avoid Facebook games and apps. Yes, many of these games are fun. However, you are safer if you download games separately to your tablet, phone or other device and play only games which are not connected to Facebook. You especially want to avoid any games which ask for access to your name, email address and the names of your friends. In the Privacy Checkup, you can click the X next to any apps you want to remove.

3. Next, click on the down arrow to the right of the question mark. On the left-hand side of the page which opens up, you will see a column of choices including privacy, apps and websites, and ads. Click on each of those items and see if you want to make changes in this area. For example, under ads you can decide whether or not to allow Facebook to show you ads based on your computer activities when you are NOT on Facebook. Go through all your choices in this section and make sure you are protecting your privacy as much as possible.

4. Avoid questionnaires on Facebook. They may seem like harmless fun, but they are often attempts to get your personal information, potential passwords, or the answers to security questions by asking you when and where you were born, your middle name, the names of your pets, the names of schools you attended, your favorite flavor of ice cream, etc. You should avoid answering these types of questions on any site.

How to Control Who Sees Your Facebook Posts

You can also control which of your friends see what you post. If you are simply wishing everyone Happy New Year, you may want all your Facebook friends to see your post. However, if you are making a comment about a politician or other controversial subject, there may be some Facebook friends who you would prefer NOT to see your posts. When you control who can see your posts, you are much less likely to get into conflict with friends who may disagree with some of the things you post.

To limit who sees your post, do as follows: After you write the post, to the left of the “post” button, you’ll see a dropdown. Use it to choose who can see your post. You can choose that it can only be seen by you, by the public, by your friends, by friends of friends or you can choose “Facebook friends except for ….” When you make this last choice, you can choose which friends cannot see each post. You remain Facebook friends with the people who are not seeing all your posts, but they cannot see your posts when you choose this option.

What If You See Posts You Dislike?

Are you seeing news stories or other posts which you find upsetting? You can easily put a stop to those. Whenever you see a post you do not like, you can click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the post and choose what action you would like to take. For example, you can choose to unfollow that person or site. This is a good choice if it is a news site, for example, which posts controversial stories which upset you. However, if you do not want to do anything that drastic, you can also choose to hide the post, snooze the source of the post for 30 days, or give feedback on the post and report it. The last one is an especially good choice if you believe the source of the post is spreading fake news or posts which are inappropriate in some way. Facebook administrators will then investigate the organization that created the post and determine if they are breaking any Facebook rules.

How to Find Interesting Posts

One beneficial way to use Facebook is to follow organizations and groups which interest you. These organizations and groups will post articles which you may find helpful. You can search for these organizations and groups by using the search bar at the top of your Facebook page. When you find organizations and groups you want to follow, click on the Follow button in their page. Some private groups will request that you request to join and be approved, and you may have to answer a few questions in order to be considered for membership in the group. For example, you can find organizations and groups which provide recipes, gardening tips, art, and information about any chronic illnesses you may have, as well as thousands of other topics.

If you follow the above suggestions, you will likely find that Facebook is enjoyable and, at the same time, you will keep your personal information safe. Happy posting and connecting! And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for current news, tips, and stories of interest for seniors and caregivers.

Still Don’t Like the Idea of Facebook, but Want to Create an Online Legacy?

If you are one of those people who still don’t feel safe using Facebook, but want to create an online legacy for your family, we have a tool for you. Using the Legacy Stories Website and mobile App, you can compose, organize, preserve, and share your legacy stories with your own Legacy Story Blog. This is an ideal solution to preserve and share your heirloom recipes, family traditions, legacy letters, poetry, wishes for the future, wisdom statements, and life lessons and value, and it’s a free service that we offer to all of our clients and readers and followers! Learn more here.

Make Plans to Reconnect on Facebook . . . and Plan for Yourself and Your Loved Ones at the Farr Law Firm

Now that you are posting pictures of your garden, messaging some of the high school friends you saw at the reunion, and making plans to reconnect with them on Facebook, it is time to plan for your future and for your loved ones. Our firm, the Farr Law Firm, is focused on helping protect seniors in Fairfax Virginia, Fredericksburg Virginia, Washington DC, and Rockville Maryland by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. Call us to make an appointment for a complimentary initial consultation.

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435

Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797

P.S. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for current news, tips, and stories of interest for seniors and caregivers

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.


  1. May I publish this blog post in it’s entirety with credits on the Capitan Library Blog I publish? Mainly senior readership & I think some of your instructions will help them.

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