How to help your kids protect their online identity

Children can often become victims of identity theft. Take some simple precautions to help reduce the risk. Arm your kids with the knowledge to help protect their identity and stay anonymous online.

The importance of online safety

Boy on the computer outdoors

Keep computers out of the bedroom

Keep your family computer in a central location of the house to better monitor your kids’ online activities. This will allow you to more readily see where they are surfing and stop any suspicious activity. Also, set up parental controls. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Use parental controls on computers to set limits on what your children can see and do while they are online.

Talk about privacy settings

Social networking sites are all the rage. If you choose to let your teens use Facebook and other such sites, help with the privacy settings. Thieves can get access to birth dates, full names, location and other information if you aren’t careful. Adjust privacy settings to be as restrictive as possible. Kids should never use their real names as their screen names in online games, message boards and other internet activities. It’s important for kids to stay as anonymous as possible online.

Inform kids about phishing scams

Phishing scams intend to con internet users into revealing their account numbers, passwords and other vital information. Phishing links are often sent via email and social networking messages. Kids should never click on strange links (type familiar URLs in the address bar instead). They also shouldn’t download programs or apps from anywhere but official websites or marketplaces.

Talk about sharing information

Kids should never share information with anyone online who they don’t know personally. And in no instance should they send, post or share certain private information — such as their Social Security number, debit card number, home address and other identifying information.

Explain to kids about viruses

Talk to your children about how viruses and other malicious software work to steal your money and your identity. Make sure that the family computer — as well as any personal computers, tablets and smartphones — are protected with firewalls, antivirus/antimalware programs and an encrypted wireless internet connection.

Teach them to change passwords frequently

Kids should know never to share passwords with anyone else other than their parents. Teach them how to set up safe, strong passwords — avoid birth dates, simple words and portions of Social Security numbers or account numbers. Use both uppercase and lowercase letters as well as symbols whenever possible. Talk to your child about changing passwords frequently, and make sure you teach to never write passwords down where anyone else can access them.

Don’t overshare

Kids should never share their full name, school name, personal address, phone number, location or other vital information online. They should also never share photos with someone they don’t know personally. And of course, they should never share provocative photos with anyone online or on their cell phones. Oversharing increases the risk for cyberstalking, identity theft and other online predators.

Remind kids

Nothing that is posted online is temporary. Even if it’s deleted later, it’s already been shared with many people around the world. Teaching kids that they can’t “take back” what they’ve posted online is an invaluable lesson and will go far in protecting their online identity and well-being.

More about money and identity theft

Tips for keeping your retirement plan on track
10 Signs that you may be a victim of identity theft
What’s on your credit report?


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