Family as 'friends': Microsoft, AARP report shows more families stay connected with social networks

Feb 7, 2012 12:32pm

By Emily Eckland, NCSA Managing Editor of Digital Media

Kids, don’t be surprised if your grandparents send you an email or post a message on your Facebook wall the next time your birthday rolls around.

Online communication and social networking are bridging the generation gap and bringing families closer together, according to a new report from Microsoft (an NCSA Board Member company) and AARP.

Connecting Generations” looks at how people of all ages are using the Internet to enhance family relationships and stay connected with family members who live far away.

“For decades, baby boomers and other older Americans have valued computers and mobile devices as tools for work, but technology is now playing an increasingly vital role in helping the 50+ population communicate and stay connected to their children, aging parents and other family members,” says Jody Holtzman, senior vice president, AARP Thought Leadership.

But the research also shows the need for educating everyone - from teens to grandparents – about ways they can protect themselves online.

Of those surveyed (teens, parents, and grandparents), 58 percent want to know more about keeping their personal information private and 50 percent want to know how to safeguard their devices.

Younger generations are more interested than older respondents (38 percent versus 27 percent) about safely using social networks.

The report also shows some disconnect between the perceived lines of communication between teens and adults.  Forty-nine percent of parents say they make themselves available to talk about online safety, but only 37 percent of teens agree.

Families can learn more about computer safety, privacy and online safety by using Microsoft’s interactive Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit.

(For more information about how families communication online, check out the infographic on the right.)

Here are some tips from STOP. THINK. CONNECT., Microsoft and AARP:

  • Own your online presence.  When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It's ok to limit who you share information with.
  • Look for Settings or Options in services such as Facebook and Twitter to manage who can see your profile or photos tagged with your name, how people can search for you and make comments, and how to block people.
  • Before you shop or bank online or enter sensitive data, check to make sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
  • Safer for me more secure for all. What you do online has the potential to affect everyone – at home, at work and around the world. Practicing good online habits benefits the global digital community.
  • Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online. Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family, and colleagues and encourage them to be web wise.
  • Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or asks for personal information.
  • Talk with your children and grandchildren. Negotiate clear guidelines for Web, mobile and online game use that fit children’s maturity levels and your family values.
  • Pay attention to what kids do and the people they meet online. Revisit regularly.

Learn more at and

To read the full Connecting Generations report, visit