If you’ve ever handed a smartphone or tablet to a toddler who just wouldn’t quiet down or found yourself trying to regulate the amount of time your children spend online, you know that the digital lives of children are in equal measure a profound source of promise and peril.
While questions about screen time are a perennial favorite topic when it comes to children, and in no way trivial, there are some much darker issues that merit discussion, but seldom make it through the din that makes the digital world such a treacherous place for young people.
#6 Identity Theft
To an identity thief, children are the gifts that keep on giving: They have no credit history, zero debt, and most parents don’t make a habit of checking their credit scores.
An unrelenting crimewave of ransomware and the never-ending parade of data breaches and data compromises have created a robust underground market for Social Security numbers and other personal information. This makes it relatively easy to get access to the kinds of information needed to open lines of credit in a child’s name.
Child identity theft may be more common than you may think. Recent studies estimate at least one million children are victims of identity theft every year. In most cases, a family member is the culprit. The consequences can last decades, presenting a barrier to acquiring lines of credit, loans, and, in some cases, may even bar certain kinds of employment.
What you can do about it: Freeze your children’s credit. It’s a quick way to make sure they’re not in the crosshairs of identity thieves. Be sure to keep documents with sensitive information like a Social Security card and medical bills in a safe place.