Web Security, Social Media Angst Challenge 50-Plus Age Group

Adults ages 50 to 75 are overconfident in their tech skills but not as careful as they should be regarding security and social media use, a new study shows.

Adults ages 50 to 75 are spending a great deal of time online these days—an average of five hours a day, a new study shows. However, their confidence in their use of technology may be causing them to overlook crucial security measures, according to a survey from security specialist McAfee.

Some 88 percent of participants consider themselves equally or more tech-savvy compared with others their age, according to the report titled "Fifty-Plus Blooms Online."

About 80 percent of smartphone users and 43 percent of tablet users post mobile photos online. Somewhat surprisingly, 24 percent admit to using their devices to send personal or intimate messages in the form of text, email, or photo messages.

Despite this, 33 percent of smartphone users and 38 percent of tablet users admit to having no password protection on their devices to safeguard these private conversations from reaching the public.

Worse still, while 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.

Baby Boomers' comfort with using the Web is also leading them to other risky behavior online when using social media, and they are exposing themselves to reproach and dangerous security risks, including sharing personal information with strangers.

"The use of social networks among people 50-plus is trending now that it’s become more commonplace across all age groups," Michelle Dennedy, vice president and chief privacy officer at McAfee, said in a statement. "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."

Overall, 57 percent of respondents said they have shared information or posted personal information online. This includes 52 percent who have shared their email addresses, 27 percent who have shared their cell phone numbers and 26 percent who have shared their home addresses.

The survey also indicated the 50-plus group is also feeling the effects of social media angst: Eight in ten use social media networks, 36 percent of which log in daily, opening the doors to the possibilities of social media drama.

Sixteen percent admitted to experiencing negative situations while logged into their social media accounts. These rifts lead to 19 percent of claims that the incident was severe enough to end a friendship.

Other results from those who had negative experiences include inappropriate posts from friends (23 percent) and having a fight with a friend, spouse or partner (9 percent).