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Children often seem to be more tech-savvy than their parents and can navigate the Internet with ease. Yet, children are less likely to be aware of the risks and consequences of Internet identity theft. Just as we warn them against stranger-danger and avoiding high-crime neighborhoods in the ‘real' world, it is important that we also discuss the dangers of online strangers and damaging crimes like identity theft on the Internet. Here are a few suggestions:
Express interest. Acknowledge your children's abilities to surf the Internet. Ask them to show you their favorite sites to visit, and demonstrate how they search for sites of interest to them. This allows you to view how and where your children spend their time online to determine if any practices could invite potential risk or compromise their safety.
Explain the basics of identity theft. If children are smart enough to be surfing the Internet, they are smart enough to understand the concept and consequences of identity theft. Explain what it is and how the financial damages could affect them directly – like revocation of cell phones, canceling vacations, no new clothes, or no Internet access.
Relate online dangers to offline dangers they already understand. Children frequent community web sites to communicate with friends they have and meet new “cyber” friends. Unfortunately, pedophiles and identity thieves frequent the same sites with the intent of capturing as much personal data from children as possible. Explain to your children that the same dangers that exist in the physical world also exist in cyberspace. Instruct them to never give out an address, phone number or even the school they attend to someone they do not personally know without consent from a parent.
Children need to understand that their actions and decisions affect the safety and security of the entire family.