Teaching Kids Internet Safety

Teaching Kids Internet Safety

Protect kids and teens from identity theft and other online vulnerabilities.

By the time some kids are 10 years old, they could already have a poor credit score, or worse, a criminal record, without ever having done anything illegal. But someone else has, by stealing their name and data. Identity theft is a growing problem for kids (and in turn, their parents). In 2021, more than 1.25 million kids in the United States had their identities stolen for fraud purposes. Kids and teens are the ideal target for this type of crime because they’ve yet to establish any credit history. Fraudsters use their squeaky clean names to apply for and receive credit cards and fraudulent loans. Protect your kids from online scams with these safety tips:

  • Stress the importance of keeping personal information private. Advise your kids to never share their full name, address, phone number, or date of birth via phone calls, texting, social media, or through online questionnaires or paper forms. For older teens, make sure they know not to disclose their social security number and driver’s license number, unless they’re applying for a job or college.
  • Don’t share your kid’s social security number. The only institution that needs to know a young kid’s social security number is the IRS. You’re not legally required to give doctor’s offices, sports teams, or your neighborhood school their SSN. If pressed to divulge the number, ask how it will be used and kept secure.
  • Restrict the number of your kid’s online accounts. Have your teen agree to ask permission first before opening any accounts, services, or apps through the Internet. When you both agree on opening an account, provide as little information as possible. Also coax them to use an alias instead of their full name.

For teens who are active on social media, there are ways to boost their privacy protections and practice internet safety:

  • Encourage your kids to keep their profile pages “private.” This setting ensures that they, or maybe you too, have to approve the people who see their posts.  
  • Urge them not to use their full name as their handle. Also, discourage them from uploading a photo of themselves as their profile picture, as these photos are public regardless of whether their profile is private. They could choose a photo of a favorite cartoon character, super hero, or animal instead.
  • Show them how to disable location-sharing on their apps and make sure they keep it off.
  • Set ground rules for what cannot be shared. Teach them to be mindful about the photos and information they post. For instance, ask them not to post photos with your house in the background. You can go even further by discouraging them from sharing photos taken by a well-known landmark that is close to your home.
  • Set a good example on social media too! It can be tempting to broadcast far and wide about your kid’s accomplishments at school or on sports teams. It’s okay to be proud. Just be private too. As you advised your kids, don’t make your social media account public and approve all of your followers or friends. If your career requires an active social media presence, open a second, more private account for close friends and family only. There, you can brag about your awesome kiddos more freely!