We constantly strive to protect our teenagers from crimes on the street, but not as much from wrongdoing in the cyber world. We categorize online identity theft as a serious crime and worry about what havoc it may cause on our lives, but rarely consider we the impact it may have on our teens’ lives.
‘Teens’ because we tend to monitor our younger children’s activities online and outside our homes more closely than we do with them when they become teenagers.
According to the research “Parenting in the Digital Age” conducted by Family Online safety Institute (FOSI), “Most parents say (95%) they monitor their child’s technology use at least somewhat closely, including 55% who say they monitor it very closely. Parents
of teens (41%) are notably less likely than parents of younger children age 6 to 9 (68%) to say they monitor technology usage very closely.”
That same research reports that, “93% of parents believe their child is at least somewhat safe when he/she is online.”
In addition, however, FOSI say, “Parents with younger children also are more likely to think that they (the parent) know more about technology and online activities than their child does (80%), whereas just 36% of parents with a child age 14 to 17 think they know more than their child.”
It appears that most of us feel our teens are safe while surfing the Web, which is why we do not monitor them as close as our younger children. At the same time, most of us admit we know less about online activities than our teenagers. So, how are we convinced our teens are safe online then? And, if it’s not us who will educate and protect them in the cyber world, then who?
How can identity theft affect your teen’s life.
Yes, your teenagers may be physically save when they are sitting in front of the computer at home, but their identity is at stake. Cyberspace criminals can steal their identity for various purposes such as applying for loans, receiving health care, renting homes, and what not. As a result, your kids may lose their future jobs, or anything that requires clean background check because their identity has once been corrupted.
How to protect your teen’s identity online
It’s all about alertness, awareness and education. Restricting your teens’ activities online is not the most effective way to protect them from anything in this world – not just the Web.
You are alert when your teenagers go outside – you ask them where they are going, what time they are getting back, who they are with. Would you, however, pay the same attention to a letter from IRS stating your teen didn’t pay his/her taxes? Or, to notices that your teen’s social security number was used on a tax return s/he never submitted? Or, to collection bills addressed to your teen for services s/he never requested or received?
Do not ignore anything that may involve your teen’s name and personal information. If any of the above has occurred, for example, that means your kid is already a victim of identity theft.
Inform yourself about your teen’s identity status by asking the reporting companies such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for a manual search of your teens’ files. You may want to closely watch your own credit report for any mentions of your teens as well.
Also, you must check your teens’ credit reports before they turn 16. In order to ensure some peace of mind, you may even want to pay an expert to investigate your teens’ identity and look for signs of fraud, and consult you on further procedures.
So, now you know how to immediately detect signs of identity theft for your teens. In order to decrease the chances of identity theft from happening, however, you must educate your teens how to protect themselves online. It is hard for a grown up person to secure his or her identity online, and it’s even harder to do so for your kids.
You must converse with them. Explain them the importance of being protected both on the street and online. Tell them why their identity should be treated with the same level of attention as their physical and mental health. What consequences there will be if they become victims of identity theft. Today, you are being asked for your personal information online for various reasons – to sign up for a free service, to receive a discount online, to create profiles on social networks, and what not. Your teens should learn to be cautious when it comes to their personal data, and should learn not to fill it out without a legitimate reason and on a legitimate website.
Educate yourself first on the possible harms the digital life hides, and then communicate them to your kids. You are not doing a good job as a parent if you are trying to provide for them and protect them outside your home, but neglect their identities.