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Why Protecting Your Child’s Identity Online Is Important

Posted on November 27, 2015

Parents raising kids today are at a disadvantage. Thanks to the internet and the advent of countless other digital and networking technologies, modern parents have to deal with challenges and dangers that their parents never had to deal with. Worse, many of these dangers are not often discussed in the public eye. Sure, we’ve all read a fair amount about cybercrime and online predators, but those threats are not the only ones that your kids are facing on the web.

The Child Identity Theft Problem

On the contrary, an equally large threat is child identity theft. Believe it or not, many criminals will target kids for identity theft. While such a crime seems inconceivable and unbelievably cowardly, it does make sense from an identity thief’s point of view. Children are given Social Security Numbers shortly after their birth, but those SSNs will hardly be used for the first 16 years of the child’s life. Furthermore, children have clean credit histories, no criminal records, and little to no public record information. And because kids don’t make use of their Social Security Numbers for years and years, identity thieves can have a decade or more of leeway where they don’t even have to worry about someone discovering their crimes.

Child identities, in other words, are virtual blank slates for identity thieves. A person who gets ahold of your child’s SSN and personally identifying information, then, can literally assume their identity for more than a decade. By the time your child is finally ready to apply for a job, get a driver’s license, or apply to college, someone else will have become them, establishing everything from credit and financial history to criminal history. These issues can make it difficult or impossible for your child to get a job, a credit card, an apartment, or a loan. Identity theft is always a problem, but when it has been going on for the victim’s entire life, it can be even more devastating.

Protecting Your Child Online

Luckily, there are many steps that you can take as a parent to safeguard your child’s identity. Many of these have nothing to do with the internet. For instance, making sure your child’s personally identifying documents (Social Security card, birth certificate, passport, etc.) are locked away in a safe place is a key protective measure.

When your child is old enough to start using the internet, though, the fight moves to cyberspace. Teaching your child smart internet etiquette is crucial right from the moment you first let them use a computer or smartphone. Emphasize that it is important for them not to give out personal information online, including their birthdate, their address, their passwords, or their Social Security number. Even contact information, like phone numbers or email addresses, shouldn’t be something that kids are sharing freely online. You can monitor what your kids are doing online to make sure they aren’t crossing these lines, but the most important thing is to educate them so that they establish internet common sense for life.

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