In this day and age, it has become increasingly easier for people to tell their story through photos and anecdotes on social media. Parents especially have jumped at the chance to record their child’s milestones for distant friends and relatives.
Consequently, this has created an online identity for children without their knowledge.
“Parents post so much information on social media,” said Erika Washington, mother of three and director of development at the Las Vegas Urban League. “It’s like leaving your front door open. Some people don’t take social media seriously because they don’t understand the long-term ramifications.”
Today’s parents are raising a generation of children who have an online presence before they can walk.
In 2010, Internet security firm AVG found that 92 percent of children in the United States have an online presence before age 2.
Many modern parents do not think twice about posting important information, including date and place of birth and their children’s full name on social media accounts.
Yet this is the information needed to steal someone’s identity.
“Posting too much information can be very dangerous, especially if it gets into the wrong hands,” said Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Michael Rodriguez. “Information as simple as a child’s full name and their date of birth is all that’s needed to steal someone’s identity.”
Rodriguez advises parents to run a credit report every year on their children to see if someone has taken their information.
“This way, they’ll know sooner rather than years down the line,” he said.
Parents can receive a free copy of their child’s credit report every year through equifax.com, experian.com and transunion.com.
If parents find suspicious activity on their child’s credit report, Rodriguez said the first step they take should be reporting it to police and bringing the credit report.
Then parents need to contact the credit agencies at which credit cards have been activated under the victim’s name.
Rodriguez warned that parents should also take caution when posting their location on the Web.
On the popular photo-sharing application Instagram, there is a location tag that shows where the photo was uploaded. If the photo was uploaded at home, people can learn the vicinity where the family lives.
Sharing photos of children has also led to so-called digital kidnapping, when another person steals online photos and re-shares them as if the child was his own.
Social media sites such as Tumblr and Facebook have groups and posts dedicated to posting photos of people’s “ugly” babies.
“We always have to remind people that once it’s out there (on the Internet), it’s up for grabs if it’s not copyrighted,” Rodriguez said. “From a criminal standpoint, that in and of itself may not be illegal.”
Rodriguez also advises parents to carefully choose who they are friends with on social media and be cautious about posting photos with important information, including addresses and Social Security numbers.
“Your friend’s friends may not be your friends,” Rodriguez said. “People should be friends with people they know. Adults can become lost in the moment and let their guard down. You just never know if someone has an ulterior motive.”
For more information on identity protection, visit lvmpd.com.
To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.