When I asked my 14 year old son what his thoughts were on internet privacy and identity theft, I expected him to sort of shrug his shoulders and give me a few canned responses. Instead, he shared with me his obvious concerns, mainly comprised of stalking and cyber bullying on various sites (including YouTube where he spends some of his time entertaining himself).
“People can be nasty and really mean on the internet. I never say a whole lot when I post or comment. There are creepy people too and you wonder a lot about who they are.” Impressive for a kid who doesn’t always seem to be listening to my well-intended parental “nagging.” So I bumped my querying up a notch, and asked if he knew what exactly a social security card was. I remembered that I had shown him his some years ago, but I didn’t expect him to really understand what they were. His response was stunning: “It’s a number that is unique to you. People can use it to hack into your private life and steal information.
While the Internet offers a plethora of services and functions to generally enrich our lives, it comes with some additional risks for which we aren’t always on the lookout. According to the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), it’s very easy to access someone’s private information. Discarded mail, email phishing techniques, even the mere knowledge of someone’s name…These are just a few ways that would-be thieves can begin accessing our data.
So, what do we do about it? Fighting identity theft can, indeed, seem helpless but awareness is always a good place to start. For instance, the NCPC offers parents their mascot, Gruff the Crime Fighting Dog, in a one page internet safety pledge that you can download, review with your child, and even have them sign. The United States Postal Service (USPS) takes it even further by suggesting that we periodically runs credit reports on ourselves, and to never, ever leave behind ATM statements. And there’s always restricting Internet usage to safe sites such as Sgrouples.
For a parent, it’s just another thing to worry about as my teen begins to make adult-like choices and decisions. But at the end of that conversation with my son, I felt good knowing that he was not just “trolling” the Internet with random whim and disregard to his own safety. “I should have given him more credit to begin with,” I sighed. After all, even this well-seasoned, “expert” mom learned some new tips right alongside him.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more shredding to do…