social media passwordsWe preach about the positives of using strong, secure passwords for every one of your online accounts all the time, but the truth is that a lot of people probably don’t view every account they have as needing the same level of security as the rest. You probably use your social media accounts as often or more than your online banking or email accounts, but do you use the same password security across the board? We wanted to find out what the average person’s habits are when it comes to social media passwords, so we surveyed 504 adults ages 18 and older, then broke down our results into two age demographics: 18 to 40 and 41 to 65+. Here’s what we discovered — and what you can learn from our results.

How do our respondents access social media?

Before we get into what we learned about people’s social media password habits, it’s important to understand what kind of social media users we’re talking about. Among the 504 people we surveyed through SurveyMonkey from April 25 to April 26, the majority said that they access between one and three social media sites or apps per day (80% of those 40 and under, 93% of those 41 and older), while only a handful each said they access four to seven (16% and 6%) or eight or more (4% and 1%). When it comes to how they access social media, it should come as little surprise that the most popular method across the board is smartphones. Second place for both demographics is their home computer, followed by tablets, public computers (like those at a library) and finally a computer at their work. It’s worth noting that more than half of respondents 41 and older (56%) indicated they use a home computer for social media, compared to just 39% of those 40 and under.

How secure are people’s social media passwords?

Reusing passwords between accounts is a common practice

An overwhelming majority of our survey respondents (67%) indicated that they have, at one time or another, used the same password between one or more of their online accounts. When we break down the specific answers, we get a fairly even split between those who reuse passwords only between social media accounts (28%), those who’ve reused passwords in the past but don’t anymore (27%) and those who never reuse passwords (33%). The remaining 12% of respondents admitted that all of their online accounts have the same passwords. When comparing the results between the two age demographics, the numbers stayed about even.

What you can learn from this: As daunting as it might seem, it’s important to use a different password for each and every online account you have. What’s more, those passwords shouldn’t be easy to guess — every year we’re reminded by the annual SplashData worst passwords list just how many people default to simple passwords like “123456” or “princess” to protect their accounts. A secure password is one that utilizes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. It’s also worthwhile to consider activating two-factor authentication where possible, to add some backup protection in case your password is breached.

Most people still rely on old-fashioned methods to remember their passwords

If you find yourself wondering how on earth you’re supposed to remember a dozen or more intricate passwords, you aren’t alone. When it comes to keeping track of passwords, we found some disparity between younger and older people. Fifty-three percent of people 40 and younger said they prefer to memorize their passwords, while respondents over 40 were split between writing them down on a piece of paper (35%) and memorization (32%). Both demographics were about even when it came to using a password manager, storing login information in their browsers and storing passwords in a document on their computer. A small percentage of both — 7% of those under 40 and 3% of those over 40 — said that they use the same password for all of their accounts, making remembering easy.

What you can learn from this: While some people might be capable of memorizing all of their passwords, chances are if you are relying on this method, you may be cutting corners when it comes to creating strong passwords. And while passwords written on a piece of paper are certainly safe from hackers, they are vulnerable to any prying eyes in your home or office. Password managers have been growing in popularity over the years, and for good reason. These programs store your login information, as well as other personal information you might need to enter into websites (like credit card details or your address), and encrypt it behind a single master password. Not only are you free from having to remember a bunch of passwords, but you also don’t have to type anything again — which means you are protected from malicious programs such as keyloggers. Allowing your browser to store your login details might help you out with memorization, but it may not be as secure as a password manager. No matter what you do, though, definitely avoid reusing passwords or saving them in a document on your device!

One in three said they never change their social media passwords

Choosing unique passwords for your accounts is half the battle. Considering how many data breaches happen in every corner of the Internet, it’s important to also change your passwords on a regular basis. When asked how often they change their social media passwords, a shocking 31% admitted to never changing them at all. Thirty-five percent of all the people we surveyed said they change them one to two times a year, 22% said they change them every few months and just 12% change theirs monthly. Though the percentages for both age demographics broke down to be fairly similar, it’s worth noting that a slightly higher percentage of people 40 and under admitted to never changing their social media passwords — 33% — compared to 31% of those over 40.

This may have something to do with the answers to another question we asked about how important people consider their social media passwords to be compared to other accounts, like their email or online banking. The majority of people over 40 (60%) view social media passwords equally important to their other accounts, while just 32% think they’re less important (and only 8% think they’re more important). On the flip-side, respondents under 40 are fairly split between those who think their social media accounts are just as important as others (46%) and those who think they are less important (45%).

What you can learn from this: Although changing your passwords for social media accounts on a monthly basis might be a bit much, when you consider just how important some of these accounts can be (and how much information they can contain, such as messages and private photos), it’s probably worth changing them at least a couple times a year. Lax social media security can also lead to your account being hijacked for use by scammers, such as those perpetrating Facebook like-farming scams. It’s also wise to take the time to review your security and privacy settings, taking advantage of features like Facebook’s Privacy Checkup, to ensure that you aren’t leaving yourself vulnerable to being a target.

Sharing passwords isn’t taboo — especially for younger users

About a quarter of our respondents overall admitted to sharing their passwords with someone currently, while an additional 34% said that they would consider it under the right circumstances. Breaking down the individual numbers, 26% of those 40 and under said they currently share their passwords, compared to 24% of those over 40. More younger people (38% vs. 31%) said they’d consider sharing, while more older people (45% vs. 36%) said they don’t share their passwords and never would. In general, people seemed more apt to share their passwords with their significant other or spouse over a friend, family member or someone else.

What you can learn from this: Ultimately, sharing a password is a personal decision, but it’s important to think carefully before doing so. In an age where it’s possible to have reputations destroyed via social media, entrusting your account login details to a partner may not be such a great idea in the long run if things go south. At the very least, take heed and changer your passwords if you decide to end a relationship where you shared such information.

Want to learn more about this survey and our results? Stay tuned for a follow-up post detailing what we learned about people’s social media privacy habits. In the meantime, keep following our privacy blog to stay up to date on all the information you need to know.