How to Protect Your Child's Identity Online
by Keith Morris
Topic: Child Online Protection
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As the world continues to transition to a significant online system of work, shopping, and education, cyber security is more important now than ever before. While you may be well versed in protecting your own personal information, what are you doing about your children’s?
Even kids are at risk of identity theft, and as a parent, it’s crucial to understand how you can protect their identity, even before they are old enough to be online. There may be behaviors you’re practicing that put your child’s security at risk without you even realizing it.
Watch What You’re Posting
From a young age, your child’s online safety begins with you and your behavior on social media. What you post will impact them for the rest of their lives, and many parents are guilty of oversharing about their children on Instagram or Facebook. They might not realize that they’re actually sharing personal information that can be used in child identity theft.
Avoid posting photos of your children’s faces online before they’re old enough to give you their consent. Not only can this be embarrassing for them later, but photos of your kids in the hands of strangers can be dangerous. Posting about accomplishments in your child’s life can be tempting, but every time you share a birth date, a full name, or a school district, you’re putting your child at risk of potential identity theft.
If you post photos of your kids online, try to avoid shots of their faces, and do not share captions that divulge personal details about the child. Also, ensure that geo tagging is turned off; otherwise, anyone who can view your feed will know the exact location you snapped the photo. This puts your family at risk for kidnapping as well.
When your child is old enough to register for their own social media accounts, you still need to be cautious of your online behavior as a parent. Most kids can register for social media at 13, which is still extremely young, so think twice before you add your child as a friend or tag them in your photos.
Why is that important if your child is already online? Presumably, your child is friending or following kids their own age on their social media accounts. If you tag your child in your posts, now you’ve exposed their account and their face to all your adult friends and followers as well.
How well do you know everyone you’re connected with on social media? It’s worth taking a minute to think seriously about the risks that come with connecting to your child online.
Get Crafty With Your Passwords
A strong password should possess 8-12 characters and a combination of upper, lowercase letters and symbols.
Teach your children from an early age how to create strong passwords that are not obvious. Also, instill in them that they should not keep these passwords online or on their phone in the notes app where they can be easily accessed if the phone is ever lost or stolen.
A strong password should possess 8-12 characters and a combination of upper, lowercase letters and symbols. A password should be something they’ll remember but is not so obvious someone else would be able to guess it.
With security questions for online accounts, encourage your child to opt for the less obvious answers that an outsider wouldn’t be able to find answers to online or via social media if they tried to use the recovery method to access an account.
For example, rather than choosing their mother’s maiden name as a security question (which would be relatively easy to trace through social media connections), they should select a more personal, subjective question like their favorite color or the name of their favorite childhood teacher.
Social Security Numbers Are Confidential
Realistically, the only time your child will need their social security number is when they’re old enough to work or when they require medical attention at a hospital.
There will be many forms throughout your child’s life that will ask for their social security number, but that does not mean you’re obligated to give it out. Realistically, the only time your child will need their social security number is when they’re old enough to work or when they require medical attention at a hospital.
Your doctor may be able to treat children without their SSN, but some medical facilities might deem it necessary to provide care that is not emergent. Sometimes, a health card number can be used instead.
Talk to Your Kids About Online Privacy
You need to teach your kids about the concept of personal information from a young age and make it clear that this information should not be shared with strangers.
As soon as your kids are old enough to be online, whether that’s playing games on an iPad or completing schoolwork, it’s vital that you discuss cyber safety with them in the simplest terms to avoid child identity theft. The same emphasis placed on “stranger danger” in the real world is just as important for online kids. They need to be aware that chatting with people they don’t know digitally is also dangerous and could jeopardize their safety.
You also need to teach your kids about the concept of personal information from a young age and make it clear that this information should not be shared with strangers. For young children, this can mean keeping their birth date, telephone number, surname, and home address confidential if they are asked for it by someone besides a teacher.
To protect your personal information and theirs, avoid leaving confidential documents lying around the house, such as SSNs, passports, bank statements, or utility bills, where anyone might see the information and be able to copy it.
Check Their Credit Reports
Your child should have no credit history, and if they do, someone is using their identity fraudulently.
This may seem strange, but if you suspect your child’s identity is compromised, the easiest way to find out is to perform a credit check on them. Your child should have no credit history, and if they do, someone is using their identity fraudulently. With a credit report, you can find out quickly and understand the issue before it progresses further.
Protecting your child’s identity online must be an ongoing priority as a parent that requires you to remain attentive to who’s interacting with you and them online. Don’t let your guard down with new friends or acquaintances and unknowingly grant them access to your child’s personal information through your social media account.
By reforming your online behavior and educating your kids early on proper cyber safety practices, you can all feel secure knowing you’re doing the best you can to prevent identity theft.
About the Author
Keith Morris is a 20+ year veteran of the security game, with the knowledge and experience to set you on the right track toward personal safety and security. His firm is committed to giving you the tools and know-how to combat any threat to your safety.