Please note: This is an update to an article previously published by Equifax in September 2014.
If your child is playing games, talking to friends or using social media online, his or her sensitive personal information could be at risk of being accessed, stolen or sold.
According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), applications need verifiable consent from a parent in order to collect information on a child. COPPA applies to any commercial website or online service targeted to children under 13, if it collects personal information, and general audience sites that knowingly collect personal information from kids under 13. A website or service that is covered by the rule must publicly state on its home page or in its general information that it collects personal information and must obtain consent from a parent before collecting, using, or disclosing their child’s personal information to third parties. Verifiable consent may include an email signature, a signed form in the mail, a credit card number, or verbal consent from a phone call.
Under COPPA, parents have the option to agree to collection and use of a child’s information by the website or online service without agreeing to the disclosure of the information to third parties. And parents should be able to learn, before an app is downloaded, what data will be collected, who will have access to it and where it will be shared.
While the law provides some measure of protection, kids still face privacy risks online. How can you help better ensure that they – and their personal information – are safe?
First, it’s important to know what your kids are doing online. Make an assessment of your children’s accounts such as email, Facebook®, Instagram®, Snapchat®, and games, and review the privacy settings on each, as well as disclosure regarding data collection and privacy policies. You should also know with whom your children engage the most online. Consider trying out new apps and devices before buying them for your children – and be sure to keep track of the apps they download.
Base online monitoring on your child’s age, personality, and maturity level. Generally, a kindergartener will use an iPad differently than a high school student would, and the rules may be different for each. For younger children and teens, consider setting their social sites to private and approving followers yourself. Encourage children and teens to connect only with people they know, and deny and block anyone they do not know who attempts to connect with them.
Monitor how online activity affects your child. A sudden change in attitude or mood could be an indication of inappropriate online behavior.
Teach your child not to give out personal identifying information on the phone or online, including social media. Talk to them about the risks of posting personal information publicly – and also about the fact that deleting something doesn’t necessarily make it disappear online, as someone else may have downloaded or shared it. Discuss types of scams they might encounter, both over the phone and online. Encourage your child to talk with you or with another adult they trust if they encounter something that makes them uncomfortable while on the internet.
In addition, talk to your child about the importance of creating strong passwords and the need to protect their login information with passwords.
Lastly, make sure computers on your home network are protected against viruses, malware and spyware, and keep firewall and virus protection software updated.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.