Online Safety: Older Australians-the new digital generation

Older Australians are increasingly discovering the joys of the internet, but only 51% of Australians over 65 are online. Given that Tuesday 6 February is Safer Internet Day, we thought there’s no time like the present to talk about safety online. 

Late last year the Australian eSafety Commissioner and NetSafe New Zealand ran Online Safety-On The Edge to bring influential leaders and thinkers from around the world who are dedicated to creating a safer online world. At On The Edge, we learnt about how we can encourage older Australians to get online.

“You have to add life to years so be connected!”

Nan Bosler OAM, President Australian Senior Computer Clubs Association

  1.  Fear is the main reason older Australians aren’t getting online

The main fears that older Australian have around going online are:

  • Fear of hacking and privacy compromise
  • Performing unfamiliar tasks
  • “Breaking” something and incurring additional costs to fix the “damage”
  • Burdening family for help
  • The stress of contacting online support
  • Feeling embarrassed when asking for help

Understanding these barriers can help us become more aware of how to motivate and encourage older Australians we know to get online.

  1. There are great resources out there to help older Australians learn basic digital literacy

The Australian Computer Clubs Association has clubs all over Australia. They seek to support and encourage seniors to take advantage of modern information technology to meet their individual needs and to provide further challenges. This enables people to  improve their computer literacy at their own pace, in a friendly non-threatening environment, whilst having a bit of fun along the way! 

The Australian Government has launched the Be Connected portal to help older Australians online. The website includes tutorials for getting online a learning plan for each internet users, digital literacy training locations and how to become a digital mentor. 

  1. You can help!

Being connected to family and friends is a big motivation for older Australians to go online. If you know someone who could use a hand gaining confidence online, there’s plenty of things you can do such as:

  • Give that old phone, device or computer of yours another life by donating it to an older Australian and helping  them to find  internet or telephone plan that suits them.
  • Make learning computer skills a social activity. We heard about one person who goes over to her grandmother’s house every Monday and teaches her how to use her mobile phone after they share a meal together, making it a fun night for both of them! 
  • Be patient and encouraging when teaching older Australians to go online so that they don’t feel overwhelmed, remember it was hard when you first learnt how to do something too!
  • Teach the basics of internet safety. Older Australians need to know that they will never be asked by anyone reliable to reveal passwords or credit cards.
  • Older Australians need to understand about privacy settings. Help them reach people they want to share information with like family and friends without including the whole world.


Being online can build community, social connection and increase the ease of access to services such as banking and bill paying for older Australians. As Nan Bosler OAM says, ‘the internet is too good to miss!’


Casimira Melican
Casimira Melican is the lead policy researcher at the Victorian Women’s Trust and a regular contributor to the VWT blog. She has co-written submissions to the Victorian and Federal Governments on diverse topics such as women’s superannuation, paid parental leave and women’s leadership. She is passionate about creating a world where everyone feels safe always, whether offline or online.

Follow on Twitter @CasimiraMelican or LinkedIn @Casimira Melican 

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