Protect Your Teen’s Identity and Online Safety
Child identity theft is not new. It hits infants, toddlers, tweens and teens. An estimated 1 million children have their identities stolen annually and, while the number is lower than for those over 20, the damage can be extensive because it is so much harder to detect.
If you live with teenagers, you know they’re online a lot. They face untold risks as they navigate the internet. It’s a major concern for parents, but there are ways to whittle down the risks.
Start Early. Repeat Often.
Is there ever a good time to argue with a teen? That’s doubtful, but conversations about online safety and privacy should start before their first login whenever possible. Say something like, “I’ll allow you to have a smartphone but let’s agree on the rules first.”
Start with parental controls. What would you like to limit here? One area of concern is downloading apps. Many of them ask you to share administrative access with the designer, which can let others view or change privileges only the administrator should control. You’re probably paying for the device, so write your family’s rules down and get teens to sign them. You sign, too.
Discuss app downloads, location tracking settings and more. Do you want to install an app that will let you track your own kids? If so, now’s the time to add it. All this goes into your agreement.
If your teen often loses devices or wallets, factor that into the chat. Find my phone features can be priceless if activated before a loss.
This discussion is not one and done, either. Revisit it every few months in the beginning. The document all signed is invaluable later if a teen ignores the rules, and you want to disconnect their phone temporarily as a lesson. Just don’t expect any conversation from them at the dinner table until you restore the service. Check your provider to see how temporary outages work before you make the threat thought. Some companies require that you shut service for an entire billing cycle.
Even younger children can be part of the safety discussion. They’re never too young to learn basic safety rules.
If you doled out smartphones without discussing rules or having an agreement in place, Apple has given iPhone users another way to launch the discussion. The company’s latest mobile operating system update requires users to “opt-in” to app tracking, so you and your teen will both know what data the apps collect, use for targeting ads to you and sell.
More Discussion Points
How’s the talk going? If you’re making some progress, add these points to the discussion:
- Password sharing with friends. Nope
- Apps that request but have no apparent need for your teen’s location. Nope again
- Biometrics and password safety
- All parent calls or texts need a return message
- Data overage charges and who’ll pay those
- Parents reserve the right to look at the phone at any time
These points won’t earn undying love or praise from your kid, but they will keep that youngster safer.
A more challenging conversation point revolves around the fact that an estimated 60% of teens know their identity thieves. It could be an aunt, the babysitter, or a next-door neighbor. Even a parent with a lousy credit score has stolen their kid’s identity on occasion. Rather than a blanket exclusion of relatives from your trust list, introduce a smaller “safe list” to trust with online devices.
Some experts believe that teens bullied online face a greater risk of other harm, including identity theft. Monitoring your teen’s social media interactions is not an invasion of privacy; it’s a necessary safety move.
Routine social site checks should be on the rules list, but teens don’t often comply quietly. If the drama becomes too much, consider an outside company like IDShield to search for red danger flags, including mention of drug or alcohol or discrimination comments. Our monitoring checks text posted on popular sites like Instagram and Facebook. Scans can detect image captions and comments exposing personally-identifying information (PII) like birth dates and home addresses as well as undesirable posts.
Smartphones and Smart homes
If your home’s a smart one equipped with video doorbells and auto locks, that’s another primary reason why your teen should never share phone passwords with friends or acquaintances. Internet of Things (IoT) equipment requires top security also.
Add passwords to Alexa, Echo Dot or any other devices in your home with listening capability. They record far more than you may realize. All your home’s IoT devices—including that new refrigerator—need to be secure so that hackers don’t gain access to your home network when a teen makes a mistake.
- Guard your child’s SSN and health insurance card as closely as your own.
- Most states allow you to freeze your child’s credit records to prevent fraud.
- Store valuable documents under lock and key.
- Freeze each child’s credit file with one of the Big Three credit bureaus. Thirty-three states already allow this action.
- Set up banking alerts to notify you of any large withdrawals to your accounts that offspring might access.
IDShield scans for changes in credit reports, new credit applications filed, payday loan fraud, and bogus change of address forms filed with the Post Office plus other potential dangers. Set up alerts so we can notify you when we find your data somewhere it shouldn’t be. Our family identity theft protection plan can blanket both you and the most precious people in your lives—your children.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.