There are lots of reasons to think twice before we post pictures and anecdotes about our kids online — they might find it embarrassing later, we’re creating a digital life they have no control over and it’s an invasion of privacy, for example. But here’s another reason to lock down how much we share: We may be helping criminals steal their identity in the future.
Barclays, an investment bank headquartered in London, has estimated that “sharenting” will account for two-thirds of identity fraud facing young people by 2030. Part of the problem, the BBC reports, is that parents may not realise how much data they’re producing for fraudsters through seemingly innocent posts on social media.
The bank says parents can reveal names, ages and dates of births from birthday messages, home addresses, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, schools, the names of pets, sports teams they support and photographs.
Barclays warns that such details, which will still be available when young people are adults, could be used for fraudulent loans or credit card transactions or online shopping scams.
In a video from the New York Times, three young people sat down with their mothers to talk about the over-sharing of their pictures and private information online. Eighteen-year-old Elmer Gomez, in particular, was concerned with information his mum had posted on Facebook, including his full name and address. When his mum defended the sharing of his photos and information — saying it’s private and only seen by her friends and family — he responds, “All it takes is one person and one hack, and there goes all your privacy.”
In addition to identity theft concerns, the Times points out that “parents also risk unwittingly exposing their children to data broker profiling, hacking, facial recognition tracking, pedophilia and other threats to privacy and security.”
You don't need to have evil motives for wanting to fake your identity or go incognito online; for many people, it's a matter of privacy and avoiding spammers and scammers. Thankfully, there are a great many tools for staying anonymous online. Here are a few of the best.
Does that mean you should stop sharing everything about your kids on social media? That’s probably not realistic for most parents. However, Forbes reports that Stacey Steinberg of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law has said that parents should be talking with their kids early and often about what they’re posting online:
Steinberg is not trying to convince parents to maintain complete radio silence about their families. Instead, she is suggesting that parents give more thought to what they post, eliminate unnecessary layers of information like geotagging, and talk to their kids as soon as they’re able about what’s being put online about them.
A good rule of thumb before you post might be to pause and ask yourself: If this picture or this information got into the wrong hands, what could that mean for my child’s safety and privacy? And then post—or don’t post—accordingly.
Identity theft rates are on the rise, so you should always be vigilant of the threat, and that means taking the necessary steps to protect yourself. As author Adam Levin points out, you should be especially careful to secure your personal information during a big move.