BEING CONNECTED: The Be Connected program helps Seniors keep in touch safely with family, friends and community in an increasingly digital age.
BEING CONNECTED: The Be Connected program helps Seniors keep in touch safely with family, friends and community in an increasingly digital age. vadimguzhva

Forget the fear and hi-tech talk and Be Connected safely

A NEW online and community program, Be Connected, aims to take away the fear factor which is stopping many older Australians from either using the internet at all or using it as much as they could.

According to research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, about 2.7 million Australians aged 50 years and over have little or no engagement with the online world.

They have low digital literacy, find technology intimidating, and lack confidence to ask for help or knowledge of where to get help, and are often taken advantage of online.

"We know anecdotally that older Australians can be a more trusting generation - our research bears this out, with 40 per cent of those aged 50 and over experiencing a computer virus or being the victim of a scam, credit card or personal information theft,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

With the wold becoming increasingly digital, those with low internet skills can often feel isolated from their community and family at a time in their lives when feeling connected is increasingly important.

Even online shopping can make a huge difference to people's lives, taking away the hassles of driving to the mall, finding a park, manoeuvring the trolley, reaching up and down for groceries and carrying heavy bags.

While the research shows about four million older Australians are keen to improve their digital literacy, they also want help addressing online safety and security concerns.

Hardly surprisingly considering their vulnerability online, 72% prefer face-to-face, one-on-one coaching over online learning.

As part of the Be Connected program, a national network of community groups is delivering free face to face coaching, supported by the Good Things Foundation Australia.

"We're excited to have over 1200 community organisations across the country in the Be Connected Network, from libraries to retirement villages, community centres to Men's Sheds, all supporting older Australians to get online,” Good Things Foundation national director Jess Wilson said.

Whether you choose to learn online or face-to-face, the program is very user-friendly and easy to follow, starting from the basics - and I do mean absolute basics, with questions like what is a computer, a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone?

Getting to Know Your Device, teaches the basic functions of a keyboard, a mouse, a computer, and managing files, while Getting Started Online helps you with internet search engines, using email and online forms.

For those with More Online Skills, this unit takes you that step further into online shopping, connecting with family and friends through social networks, using a digital camera and watching TV online.

And of course, there's the all-important section on internet safety and how to avoid scams and tricks, and the golden rules of 'never provide personal information or account details unless you are 100 per cent sure exactly who you are dealing with' and, 'if in doubt, delete'!

Each module is small - taking about five minutes to complete - and is as simple as clicking the Start and then Next buttons and reading the simple-to-understand information, with absolutely no high-tech talk involved.

Go to or ring the Be Connected helpline on 1300 795 897 to ask for the face-to-face course nearest you.

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