Talking with Kids about Online Privacy Settings

CSID_cyberSAFEBlogSeries-Backtoschool-01Thank you to CSID for inviting KidsPrivacy to take part in their Back to School Campaign! In the rush to join a new social network, kids often don’t take the time to investigate settings. Many popular apps will allow kids to open private accounts or choose to make a post private. Below is a link to my article where I discuss the different privacy options available on popular apps. For more information on privacy settings, check out my page containing Parenting Guides for Popular Apps and Websites.

Need more tips? On Thursday at 11 am (PSD) log on to Twitter and follow #IDTheftChat where CSID and Private Wifi will be talking about wi-fi at school and how to protect your child’s personal information.


Talking with Kids about Online Privacy Settings

Backtoschool_082514This guest blog post is a part of our cyberSAFE blog series focusing on back-to-school security, privacy and identity topics. It comes from Anne Livingston, the founder of Kids Privacy, which provides parents with information and resources to teach kids to share smart and stay safe online. This fall, she is publishing her first book – Talking Digital: Tips and Scripts for Parents Raising Kids in a Digital World.

When I download a new app, I like to figure it all out first. I take my time, look through settings, and read reviews. My kids have a different approach. They just dive in. Often, this means moving as rapidly as they can, ignoring the settings to get to the fun part. But taking time to explore the settings is a critical piece to protecting privacy.

In the past, teens were able to rely on privacy through obscurity. With so much information online, most communications were lost in a sea of content. Technology is developing faster and better ways to search. Now, people can look for things online via an image or location. These public photos and posts are becoming easier to find. This visibility can lead to unintended audiences. Parents should talk with their kids and teens about the importance of limiting information.

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baby girl 2

Are you sharing too much in your Baby Registry?

baby girl 3One of the first internet safety lesson kids learn is never post personal information online; this includes full name, location and birth date. This rule is to keep them safe from identity thieves as well as snooping strangers. But before their first birthday, a child’s personal information may already exist online. When parents register for baby gifts, they are often sharing more than their preference for baby bumpers and bobby pillows.

Recently, a friend asked me to take a look at these popular online baby registries. He was buying a gift for a friend and was surprised by the amount of information posted. He found registries that contained a child’s full name, birth date, location, the parents’ full name and often the grandparents’ full name. All this information was public and easy to find. Last week, I spent some time investigating online baby registries.

Public Baby Registries

First, I checked out Babies”R”Us. Signing up requires a parent to enter their full name, location and their child’s arrival date. Parents can also add a maiden name, grandparents’ names as well as a personal message. Parents often use the personal message to announce their baby’s arrival by posting their child’s full name and actual birth date. These registries remain online for a year after the arrival date unless the parent calls Babies”R”Us to delete the registry.

Searching the Babies”R”Us registry, I could find an entry containing all of this information within a few clicks. Anyone can search the registry by just entering the first two letters of a last name. Enter “PA” and you can see 200 entries across the US. You can narrow a search by entering a city or first name. Within 2 searches, I had a registry with a child’s full name, birth date, city, state, parent’s name, maiden name and grandparent’s names.

babies r us full name

Other baby registries – including Amazon, Walmart and Target – displayed less information. Usually, the public fields were limited to parent’s names, location and the child’s arrival date. Again, parents could post additional information in a public message. This is where parents often added their child’s full name. Target and Amazon were the only ones I found that allowed for a private registry where only invited friends and family could view it.

target privacy


amazon privacy settings

“Why should it be private?”

I saw this question quite a few times on baby forums. When you are preparing for a new arrival, the last thing on your mind is child identity theft. With identity theft on the rise, parents should be cautious about sharing their child’s personal information. Recently I co-hosted a tweet chat with CSID and Lookout Social. One of the topics was how criminals mine social media accounts for personal information. I asked Joe Ross, President of CSID about the rise in child identity theft.

“Children today can have a digital footprint before they are even born. When parents post sonogram pictures to Facebook, cyber criminals become aware of a fresh identity on which to prey. In a poll by Posterista, it takes parents 57.9 minutes on average to share their newborns’ first photo on a social media site. Identity thieves are increasingly taking advantage of children, as most children’s Social Security numbers and personal information remain unused until they turn 18, leaving years for thieves to do serious damage. In this day and age, it is more important than ever for parents to be aware of the risks associated with child identity theft. CSID surveyed parents last year, and even though parents are aware and concerned about this issue, more than half are not currently taking measures to prevent misuse of their child’s information.”

It is more than identity theft. Cybercriminals can use this information for targeted phishing attacks. The information provided here, such as grandparents names, are also the answers to popular security questions. Most parents don’t realize how valuable this data is to a criminal.

If you are registering online for baby gifts, keep your information to a minimum. Your friends and family can probably find the registry using just your initials. Do not include your child’s full name. Remember, after the gifts are open delete the baby registry. If possible, use the available privacy settings. If the company you want to register with doesn’t allow for private accounts, send them an email.  New parents have enough to worry about without having to fret about someone stealing their child’s information.

For more information on Child Identity Theft, check out: