Teaching your child to protect their identity online

As an adult, you are most likely well aware of the dangers of sharing personal information over the internet. However, your children may not be aware of this danger, or of how little personal information it takes for a scammer, hacker, or even predator to take advantage of them. Your responsibility is to take the time to educate them about how to protect their personal information on the internet.

Scammers and hackers are often seeking usernames and passwords. They can then log into your child’s email, social networking, or instant messaging account and use it for their own purposes. They often accomplish this by chatting with your child and asking them a seemingly innocent question, like “What is your dog’s name?” or “When is your birthday?”, while appearing to be a friend your child’s age. Before long, they’ve gathered a list of usernames and passwords for their own use.

Online predators are even more dangerous. Their goal is to convince your child to participate in sexual activity online, or even to arrange a personal meeting. They practice an activity known as grooming, where they pretend to be someone your child’s age or slightly older, and gradually convince your child to share personal information, flirt, or discuss sexual topics.

Personal information can seem innocent, but if enough small bits of information are gathered, a predator can find your child in person. Children and teens often think little of posting the name of their school, their age, or their pets or friends names on their blogs, Myspace pages, or other personal web pages. They don’t mind discussing personal topics with their new “friend” over instant messenger.

It is also important to teach your child not to enter personal information into online forms without asking you first. Promises of discounts, free products, or free samples can be enticing. Be sure to tell them how dangerous it can be to give out personal details such as their name, date of birth, social security number, etc. Teach them to read websites privacy policies before entering any personal information. If they are still unsure, have them ask you if the site is a safe one.

As a parent, it’s important that you take the time to teach your child how dangerous it is to share personal information. Be sure to check in on their web page regularly, and do your best to know what username they generally use. Most teens use the same screen name on all sites that they frequent, so if you know your child’s, you can periodically search for their screen name using Google and see where they’re going online, as well as what they’re saying. Most children and teens are surprisingly short-sighted about how easily the information they post online can be found – if this is the case with your child, you may have to demonstrate for them just how much you can learn about them online.

Have a great day!