Social media and video games dominate much of todays youths time. However, just because they are accessing these sites from the privacy of their home, that doesn't make them safe.
Each year more than 140,000 children are victims of identity theft and fraud in the U.S., according to IDAnalytics, a risk-management firm. With the gaining popularity of online video gaming, chances are your child is putting his or her own identity, as well as yours, at risk.
The Entertainment Software Association reports 72% of American households play video or computer games and 13% are boys under the age of 17. XBox Live has an estimated 35 million registered users, and PlayStation Network has 77 million estimated registered users.
Parents are also present when games are purchased or rented 91% of the time, according to the ESA, showing parents have opportunities to step in and make sure their identities, as well as their children's, are protected.
Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDTheft911, said parents have become more attuned to the dangers their children face when gaming online due to the massive Sony data breach earlier this year. Children and teens are almost always using their parents' credit card information when gaming online, so if your child is impacted, you will be too.
"Kids have a tendency to be more open, and they don't understand the dangers of identity theftone wouldnt expect them to," Levin said. "It all goes to the heart of the issue of financial literacy."
When gaming online, kids do not often read the fine print of the terms of the company they are gaming with, Levin said.
"Identity theft is not [100%] preventable," he said. "But you can restrict the amount of information you give to people who don't have your best interests at heart."
Joe Mason, SVP of consumer services at Intersections Inc., said parents need to be good role models for their kids, and make sure their children know appropriate settings to reveal information.
"A lot of games have avatars, where trust and friendship are established," Mason said. "But you have to remember that online gamers don't know, nor should they know, the real you."
The more comfortable a child becomes with gaming, the more likely they may become to release information, he said.
Here are some tips from Levin on protecting identities when gaming online.
No. 2: Create strong passwords. Any type of alphanumeric password is your best defense against virtual criminals, according to Levin. Also, dont share passwords between different sites.
No. 3: Limit the amount of data your child gives out. Make sure your child is never revealing his or her real name, Social Security number or birthday on the Web.
"The greatest gift you can give an identity thief is a dormant Social Security number and a clear run for a decade," Levin said. "That is exactly what you get with a child."
No. 4: Try disposable credit card numbers. Levin suggests checking with your bank or credit card company to see if they offer "virtual" credit card numbers that mask your real card number. Or, you can look into using a specific card for online gaming that has a very low limit.
"That way if it gets compromised, its not a big deal because they can't do much to you," he said.
No. 5: Check your accounts daily. Make sure you are monitoring your credit historyif a purchase looks unfamiliar, follow up on it. Levin also says to have parental permission made mandatory in order to purchase anything online.