privacy & identity theft
Just like adults, children may be at risk of having their online identity stolen and misused. It can be difficult to maintain a child’s privacy as they may not understand what information is safe to share online, or what default privacy settings are on the sites and devices they’re using.
Why is my child at risk of having their identity stolen?
In the online world children could unwittingly reveal enough personal details like their address and telephone number to enable their identity to be stolen. So it’s really important for children to know how to keep their private information private.
If a child’s identity is stolen it may not be noticed for many years and could in some cases lead to a child being the victim of blackmail, grooming or bullying.
What are the signs that my child’s identity has been stolen?
You may start to suspect your child’s identity has been stolen if they:
- get a bill for something they haven’t ordered
- start to get emails from an organisation they don’t recognise
- receive any letters regarding government benefits or tax payments.
Talk about privacy and identity theft with your child
Many of the sites children like to use ask them to reveal information about themselves, from pictures of them and their friends, their names and where they live, to their favourite music, films and games.
It’s great for them to build relationships and share their interests but it’s also important to talk to your children so they understand what could happen if they share too much online.
Teach them about privacy
Make sure your child is aware of the information they shouldn’t reveal online. This includes their real name, address, phone number, school and town in which they live.
Be careful who they share with
Children and especially teenagers who use sites such as Facebook and Whatsapp can have hundreds and even thousands of online friends. The more friends they have, the less likely they are to know them all well, which means they could have less control over the content they share. Encourage your child to think about which friends they share information with.
Inchildren may find themselves talking to other people they don’t know. In this case they should never reveal their personal details. The more information they reveal, the easier it can be for someone to build up an identity for them.
How should I protect my child from identity theft?
Here’s how to help keep your child safe online:
Check their online privacy settings
Check their device settings
Check the privacy settings on their smartphone and tablet devices. Things to look out for are whether they are set up for location services, sharing of contacts, photos and calendars, bluetooth sharing, microphone, video and advertising. See our section on the safety pages of the main devices.
Find out what is already out there
Search your child’s full name in several search engines and see what information and photographs are public.
If you find any inaccurate comments or photographs that might damage your child’s reputation, ask the website on which they appear to remove them.
Don’t make it easy
When using public computer, your child can use ‘incognito browsing’ if they are using Google Chrome so that any log in or personal details aren’t stored by the browser.
If you’re worried about your child downloading viruses from pop-ups, BBC Webwise has advice on how to stop these.
Keep up to date
If your child’s identity has been stolen:
- Tell any affected websites about the problem.
- Your child should log in and change their password immediately.
- If they can’t log in, go to the website’s technical support department for help.
- Change any secret questions or other extra information sites ask for to verify your child’s identity.
- Check with credit reference agencies for any unusual entries, and for advice.
- Tech knowledge: How Children use devices at school and at home, September 2015. Pg.44
- FOSI: Parents, Privacy and Technology report – 2015. P.g 8
- Pace of Change report. December 2015. P.g 33