Protecting Your Children While They’re Online

Sep 9, 2020, 1:40 PM

Identity theft is a risk everyone takes on the internet.

It’s easy to do so much online today, and in the pandemic, you never even have to leave your house if you order your meals and household supplies on the internet. If you have children, they’re probably online a lot too. Maybe they’re getting ready for the new school year with virtual classrooms… or if you’re like my son, you’re in school but also catching up on a lot of cartoons.

Identity thieves use the information they find to open credit cards, take out loans, and drain bank accounts. They don’t just look for online data from adults; even though children don’t have credit cards, they do have Social Security Numbers. Many also have their own social media identities and can unwittingly give away personal information there. 

Preventing online child identity theft

What can you do to keep your family safe from identity theft? Try these six ideas:

  1. Question the need for a Social Security Number. Many forms ask for an SSN but it isn’t always necessary. If you’re worried about what the number will be used for, leave it blank or ask why it’s needed, then make a decision on whether to include it.
  2. Protect sensitive documents. Keep information like SSNs, birth certificates, and passwords in a safe place; a literal safe is a good idea.
  3. Consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze is a way to keep anyone from getting access to your or your child’s credit report unless you specifically allow it. Companies will rarely open an account without a credit report. It’s not foolproof, since job applications, apartment rentals, and buying insurance aren’t affected by a credit freeze, but it does limit a criminal’s options if he or she does steal your child’s identity.
  4. Request a free child ID scan. Here’s one example but all the credit services do the same thing. It looks for any accounts started using a child’s identity — and on average, that’s the identity of children who are just 12 years old. If any bank accounts, credit cards, or other financial records exist that shouldn’t, the credit monitoring service has specialists who can help handle the problem.
  5. Teach kids about social media privacy. Of all the tips in this blog post, this is probably the one you’re most familiar with. New social media sites come and go regularly (remember MySpace and Vine?) and your child might have a profile on each one. Adults and children might give out more private information than you would think; it’s easy to do when it’s in the form of a fun Facebook quiz or to get a free download of something or other. Data you don’t even realize you’re giving away is often the answer to security questions on websites that host your bank accounts.
  6. Pay attention to where your children go online. In the same way, keep an eye on where your children are when they’re on the internet. YouTube and other high-profile sites want to keep you watching, no matter what, so they’ll keep the videos coming as long as someone is looking. The math they use to determine what video to send you next isn’t foolproof, and something inappropriate or even dangerous could be just minutes away.

Questions? Let us know in the comments.

The Mutual Understanding blog and Hastings Mutual videos are made available for educational purposes only. The information referred to is not an official company statement, corporate policy, or offer of coverage. Refer to your insurance policy for specific coverage. There is no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of any information found by following any link on this site. Please contact your local independent insurance agent with further questions and for more details on any insurance policy-related information you read here.

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