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Challenge: Kids and Technology

How I Protect My Children's Digital Identity

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Before my kids, I never thought much about identity theft or how going online could leave me vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Three children later, I’ve become much more aware of the dangers and honestly, in today’s society, I think its essential for parent’s to pause a moment and consider their children’s digital identity before posting so much about their kids. If you’re interested in learning more, here is how I protect my children’s digital identity.

1. I never share baby/kid pictures on social media

A few weeks after my first son was born, I had hundreds of sweet pictures of us as a new family—pictures I was dying to share on Facebook so that relatives across the country could see our beautiful baby boy. I resisted. I had seen friends post pictures of their little ones, and while I enjoyed seeing those photos, I also wondered if it might be dangerous to do so.

After my son's birth, I did a little research and discovered that digital kidnapping is a legitimate concern, and that photos posted online can open kids up to identity theft. I decided then and there that no pictures of my kids would ever be posted on my social media accounts. When they’re old enough to make their own choices online, they’ll be able to post pictures if they want to. I got a lot of complaints from family members, but my children’s safety is #1 priority to me.

2. I put parental controls on all our devices

As any parent knows, kids don’t always have the best impulse control. Parental controls have been a wonderful source of peace of mind in my household—I don’t have to worry about what my children are exposed to, because I control what they can see and do online. It’s not a perfect system, but it is helpful when your kids are little and aren’t able to grasp the privacy issues and inappropriate content that can be found online.

3. I’ve talked to them about the dangers of cyber-attacks and the importance of good digital habits

Though my three kids are still young, I think it’s important for them to realize the importance of maintaining their privacy from a young age. There are several different kinds of cyber criminals, from scammers to identity thieves, and I think the more knowledge I can give my kids, the safer they’ll be. We’ve spoken about what to look for online to make sure sites are legitimate, and I have a rule that they need to ask me before they follow any links. I help them create strong passwords, and I’ve even helped them set up security questions that aren’t actually true for an extra layer of security.

It’s Not Always Easy

I’m going to admit: protecting my kids’ digital identities isn’t always easy. Kids don’t always know what to look for when it comes to scams, and they don’t always make the best decisions. They’re more vulnerable to cyber-attacks than adults, and keeping them safe means a lot of oversight.

It’s also sometimes hard to stop myself from sharing a snapshot online—they’re just so cute! I understand that whether or not to share pictures online is a personal decision, and it can be difficult to resist in a society where it’s almost an impulse to get posting. There’s nothing wrong with being proud! But as parents, we have to remember: it’s also our job to be protective.

Additional References:

CNN - Why You Should Protect Your Child's Privacy

Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information - Protecting Your Child's Privacy Online

University of North Dakota Online's Master of Science in Cyber Security - Cyber Security & Behavior

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