Identity theft prevention has to be a joint effort between you and your kids. As parents we learn that you can only do so much to keep our kids safe. Whether it's riding a bike or eventually driving a car, or in this case identity theft prevention, at some point we have to trust our kids to do what's right.
Our job as parents is to take the responsibility for identity theft prevention when they are young, and then arming them with what they have to know along with an understanding of the dangers and the consequences of identity theft so they can surf the Web and participate in social media while keeping themselves safe.
In the case of id theft, when your kids first start using a computer, it is perfectly reasonable for parents to monitor that usage very closely. You can, and should, limit younger kids' internet usage to certain sites while strictly limiting their ability to download. Tell them that if they receive any kind of email or message - or something just seems to pop up on their screen - they don't open it until they show it to you and you give your approval.
Half the battle is to convince your children that identity theft is a very real threat, and that it can happen to them, and the difficulties they will face in starting their lives as independent young adults if their identities have been compromised.
These conversations can and should start just as soon as they sit down in front of a computer. It's important that this parent-child interaction continue as the kids get older, get their first smart phone and then as they begin to use social media. The end result you want is for your kids to take progressively more responsibility in keeping themselves safe, are they grow older and as their Web usage increases.
In our book about child identity theft – "Bankrupt at Birth" - my colleague Joe Mason and I tell many stories of the troubles encountered by young adults who learn that their identities had been stolen. Getting student aid and loans for college, or landing their first job, or renting their first apartment, even getting cell service in their own name, all can be jeopardized if someone has been using, and abusing, their identities.
A big hurdle will likely come when your kids start to use Facebook. Here the talks you have with them now should become more serious because the dangers they could face are far more serious.
In the past I have talked about Facebook safety. It is entirely reasonable for you as an interested parent to make sure that Facebook's privacy settings are utilized, that location information is not being given out, and that your kids understand some of the possible ramifications of what they post and what they share even with their friends.
Ask your kids a simple question: "who owns what you post to your Facebook page?" Their answer will be some form of "well I do of course." You can then break the news that Facebook has the right to use anything they post in any manner Facebook wants.
Which bring up the next and possibly most important issue you hopefully want to drill into your kids - what you post, or email or tweet is likely in the interactive web world forever.
Do they want some college admissions officer or potential employer to read this Facebook post or this tweet or see this picture they are sending via one of the photo sharing sites? More and more, decisions about their futures may be made by people who check social media to get a better understanding of an applicant.
Of course, teaching your kids - of any age - to safely use the Web and social media carries with it a responsibility that parents much educate themselves as to what the dangers are of id theft and how to avoid them. This will take a bit of effort but it is worthwhile because in learning how to keep them safe, you will also learn how to keep yourself safe as you use the Web.
The website Stay Safe Online has an informative article on the subject which I highly recommend.