NEW YORK (MainStreet) At first glance, it seems parents and teenagers are aware of the dangers of revealing too much personal information online, including on popular social media sites such as Facebook (FB) - Get Report and Twitter.
A November study by the Pew Foundation shows that 72% of parents are "concerned" about how their teenager interacts with people online, and 53% of parents are "very concerned" their teens share too much information online with people they don't know.
While parents may be getting the message, their kids are seemingly tone deaf to the very real threats coming from identity fraud and data theft. LifeLock (LOCK) , a Tempe, Ariz., identity theft protection business, surveyed 700 U.S. teens and found 75% of teens online were sharing some information that made themselves vulnerable to online crime. Some of the ways:
- 29% of those surveyed said they display their full date of birth online; 33% said they display part of their birthdate, such as the month and year.
- 23% reveal part of their home address and 6% show the full address.
- 63% share the name of the school they attend.
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Yet if you ask the average American 16-year-old, he or she would say they are in no danger of I.D. theft, and that the problem really lies in their friends' behavior. According to LifeLock, only 11% of teens surveyed admit being too lackadaisical about protecting their online identity, while 46% say their peers share too much personal data online.
LifeLock says it's up to parents to step up and take control.
"With 75% of teenagers including some type of personal information on their social media profiles, it's clear that they don't understand the potential danger of oversharing," says Hilary Schneider, president of LifeLock. "As parents we need to engage in regular conversations with our teens about online behavior and set boundaries."
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Parents need to sit their kids down and have a candid discussion on how identity theft can damage their financial lives, especially the theft of Social Security numbers that I.D. fraudsters use to open a credit card in their child's name. That can lead to rampant financial abuse, wrecking a teen's credit rating before they get a chance to.
Parents also need to warn their teens about sharing content online (including racy images and inappropriate dialogue) that could be seen by potential employers in a few years.
"With identity theft and other crimes increasingly aimed at teens, the time for parents and educators to take action is now," said Schneider, a parent with teenagers at home herself. "We can no longer avoid the problem. It's only likely to worsen in the months ahead."
LifeLock offers a useful tutorial on the dangers of identity theft for U.S. families here.
By Brian O'Connell