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.


of secondary school-aged pupils believe they know how to change their privacy settings on social networks ¹


of parents worry about their child’s personal safety online ²


of parents always tell their child not to give out personal information online ³

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.

Stay anonymous

In chatrooms children 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

Go through the privacy settings with your child for every social networking site and app they’re signed up to. Agree with them what they’ll share, and with whom.

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.

Take action

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.

Block pop-ups

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

Make regular visits to online safety sites like CyberstreetThinkuknowChildnet or Parent Info to stay 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.

Report it

If your child has become the victim of fraud report it to Action Fraud.

To find out more about protecting your child’s privacy online we recommend the links below, and going directly to the privacy pages of each social networking site your child uses:

Get safe online

This site has everything parents and children need to know about staying safe online, including information on safeguarding against identity theft.


This charity aims to make the internet a safe place for children and provides a factsheet on Facebook Graph Search.


Essential tips for keeping your home computer and identity safe from hacking and fraud.


The social network’s guide to privacy settings on Graph Search.


The Thinkuknow site provides advice to young people on how they can stay secure online and can be used by parents and carers to explore the issues with their children.

Parent Info

Parent Info is a collaboration between CEOP and Parent Zone. It provides high quality information to parents and carers about their children’s wellbeing and resilience. Schools can host the content on their own website and use it in any other ways (in letters to parents etc) that they want.

Related Articles 

  1. Tech knowledge: How Children use devices at school and at home, September 2015. Pg.44
  2. FOSI: Parents, Privacy and Technology report – 2015. P.g 8
  3. Pace of Change report. December 2015. P.g 33