Playing games, making videos and texting can be fun ways for children to connect with their friends online, but they can also have a downside.
“Kids are more likely to fall for scams,” said the interim executive director at the National Cybersecurity Alliance, Lisa Plaggemier.
“Parents can be really squeamish about checking kids' phones,” Plaggemier said. “They don't want to violate their child's privacy but the reality is, especially with all the social media apps, they know exactly what your child is up to. So, I think you should know too.”
Matthew DeSarno is the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Dallas and said he wants parents to understand what their kids are doing online.
“It's important to educate yourself about the websites, software, games and apps that your children use," he said. "I think it's important to check their social media and gaming profiles; frequently look at their posts, their photos; have conversations about what is and is not appropriate to share."
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The pandemic forced screen time much earlier in children's lives than some parents may have wanted. So, Plaggemier encouraged checking security settings on their devices.
“Sit down with your child, open the app, go to the settings and set those things in ways that you feel comfortable,” she said.
An important setting to check is the location setting on a child's phone. Plaggemier suggested turning that off.
“I think the most important advice for parents is to have open, ongoing conversations about safe and appropriate online behavior,” DeSarno said.
Starting an open dialogue about some of the dangers online and creating simple rules can help keep kids safe.
“It's really great to have a rule, that unless you've met somebody IRL - -in real life -- you might not want to be corresponding with them online,” Plaggemier said.
A 2018 study produced by Javelin Strategy & Research showed more than 1 million kids fell victim to identity theft with losses totaling more than $2.6 billion. That same study found more than two-thirds of child victims were under 7 years old.
“Kids identities are worth a lot on the black market. You've got a fresh Social Security number potentially from a child and a clean credit history or no credit history and bad guys take that information,” Plaggemier said. “Your child might not realize that their identity has been compromised in any way until they're older and they go to apply for their first credit card.”
If you have a young child at home, Plaggemier suggests parents take this extra step.
“If your 2-year-old isn't applying for credit cards or buying a car any time lately, then I highly recommend putting a credit freeze on your kid's Social Security numbers with the credit bureau,” Plaggemier said.
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