Are you “Sharenting?”

Have you heard of the term “sharenting?”  It’s when parents overshare information about their children online, from their name, school, birthdate, teacher, and so on.  The unfortunate consequence of this is that it makes it easy for identity thieves to use this information to their advantage.  And because kids aren’t taking out lines of credit for a decade or longer, the identity theft goes undetected all those years.  There are reports of identity thieves taking out car loans, credit card accounts, or making big purchases in a child’s name.  Even if your social media is on private, you don’t know what your virtual friends do with that information.  One study on online security found that 80% of parents have a social media connection with someone that they never physically met.  Additionally, most child identity thefts (67%) were done by someone the child knew, such as another relative or a family friend (Masterson, 2022).  In 2021, 1 in 80 children were victims of identity theft, according to a study by Javelin Strategy and Research.  In addition to sharing information, sharing pictures, unfortunately, also puts your child at risk, as their images are now out there and could end up in the wrong hands by being altered and posted on explicit websites.

So how do you protect your children from “sharenting”?  You can still be active on social media, but just use caution so you feel empowered, not fearful.  Here are some tips:

  • Make sure to tell the grandparents too about what they can share.
  • Don’t post or check in to physical locations: leave out the name of their school, the park they have practice at, and so on.
  • Avoid using your child’s full name and consider using initials or a nickname instead.
  • Ask your child for permission to post something, especially if they are younger. This teaches them good habits for social media use once they are old enough to have their own account.  This also teaches preteens to stop and think about what they are comfortable sharing.
  • Set up a Google alert for your child’s name. Google will send you an email with links to websites that your child’s name appears in.
  • Check with the 3 credit bureaus to make sure there isn’t a credit report on your child (Gerson, 2023). Though, your child may have an existing report if you signed them up as an authorized user on your credit card, or as a joint-account holder, so check these reports to ensure everything on there looks right.  If your child shouldn’t have a report and one of the bureaus has one on file for your child, or their existing report has suspicious accounts, that’s a sign of identity theft.
  • If you find fraud on your child’s report, go to IdentityTheft.gov to report it, and consider filing a police report.
  • Freeze your child’s credit.
  • Let the credit bureaus and companies that the ID thief used know what’s going on.

Clark, A.  Posting About Your Kids on Social Media?  (n.d.).  Retrieved from http://digital.floridatrend.com/publication/?i=801745&article_id=4640436&view=articleBrowser

Gerson, E.  Does My Child Have a Credit Report?  (2023).  Retrieved from: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/does-your-child-have-a-credit-report/#:~:text=Children%20typically%20don’t%20have,or%20fraud%20in%20their%20name.

Masterson, K.  Criminals Target Children for Identity Theft and Fraud.  (2022).  Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2022/child-identity-theft.html

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Shari Bresin, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Pasco County Extension
Posted: February 1, 2024


Category: Money Matters, Relationships & Family, Work & Life
Tags: Credit Reports, Fraud, Identity Theft, Online, Oversharing, Social Media


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