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Lisa Hardstaff, credit information expert with Equifax, offers advice on how parents can teach their children about looking after their personal information online
Smartphones, tablets and laptops are now just part of everyday life for most children and teens, putting a wealth of information and entertainment at their fingertips. But the hard part for parents is making sure their kids are safe online, especially as today’s tech-savvy youngsters can sometimes leave mum and dad feeling out of their depth.
What is cybercrime?
Organised crime has been quick to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet. Specialist criminal groups can target individuals to steal personal information, and then profit from the compromised data available to them.
Personal details can be obtained in several different ways, common methods include ‘phishing’, and malware. Phishing will usually involve a fake email or website that entices a user into entering their credit card details in good faith.
Malware is software that is secretly installed on an individual’s computer when they visit an unsafe website or download an infected file – it will search for data stored on the computer and track when personal information is entered into forms.
What is identity fraud?
Identity theft involves someone stealing personal information about an individual, which may include financial data, locational data (which is information collected by a network or service about where the user’s phone or other device is or was located), personal information and passwords in order to either take over an individual’s existing accounts or to create a completely new identity.
Identity fraud is what happens when someone uses that information to commit fraudulent activity.
Risks of social media and revealing too much information
Social media offers children a great way to stay in touch with their friends and engage with the world. However, it also provides a platform to share an abundance of private information for everyone to see.
‘Children can easily reveal their age, birthdate, middle name, address or even family details’
It might seem innocent at the time, but children can easily reveal their age, birthdate, middle name, address or even family details such as their mother’s maiden name – all things that could be used for security questions or passwords, not just for the child’s accounts, but their parents too.
The importance of privacy settings
It’s not just children that put their personal information at risk. When it comes to privacy settings on social media sites, parents and their children have similar traits. *9% of 12 to 18 year olds and 8% of parents said they are not aware of, or don’t know how to use, privacy settings. When it comes to using privacy settings, 25% of children and 23% of their parents use them on some sites and not others. See Parent Info’s guide on how to set privacy settings on social media apps.
Parents should talk to their children about how to set and manage their privacy settings. A privacy setting of ‘everyone’ provides perfect strangers with the opportunity to view your children’s details; such as their photos, school and conversations with their friends, leaving them at risk of exposing personal information or being vulnerable to grooming and bullying. It’s also worth showing your children how to block contacts, in case there are any concerns about a certain individual.
Protecting your child online
Being online obviously has its benefits, but it has its risks too and protecting children can seem like a daunting task for parents. But by taking a cautious, approach parents can help their children protect themselves.
The main rules to tell your children
• Always use privacy settings.
• When creating your password reset questions and answers, keep in mind how easy it might be to guess the answer. Is the information readily available or easy to research via your social media accounts? If so, it may be safer to choose a more difficult question.
• Use different passwords for each account.
• Avoid keeping your passwords written down and never store them on your web browser.
• Never share a password and PINs with anyone – not even your best friend.
• Never give your information to someone you don’t know in the real world.
• And parents don’t forget to download and install anti-virus and online security software which helps protect your computer from outside attacks, such as malware and viruses that could try to steal information off your computer.
Worried you or your child has been a victim of cyber crime?
If you think you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime, contact the platform (eg: app or website) where it occurred and talk to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.
The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.
First published: January 2017
Updated: May 2018
* Research conducted by Censuswide who surveyed 501 Parents with children aged 8-11, 504 children aged 5-11, 500 parents with children aged 12-18 and 500 children aged 12-18