An unpleasant but, necessary topic that needs to be addressed is identity theft. Children in foster care find themselves especially vulnerable to identity theft & various other ills that take place in the digital space.
This blog post is a guest post by B. Scott. Scott is a cybersecurity and fraud detection specialist. In light of National Foster Care Awareness Month celebrated in May, he has been working to raise awareness of cybercrimes and educate individuals on how to better protect the digital lives and identification information of children in foster care.
Defending Children in the Digital Landscape
Did you know that roughly 61% of children in foster care nationally are removed from homes due to neglect? Imagine being young again, with an abundance of information at your disposal, countless platforms on which you can speak, and a world of people to listen and communicate with at your fingertips, and not having the guidance you need to utilize it all correctly.
Whether it be through cyberbullying or cyberstalking, school-aged children can do serious damage to their classmates’ reputations, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
Among the affected are new students and foster youth, who may feel isolated or excluded from friendships with other students. With more than 437,000 youth in the foster care system nationwide as of 2016, and the state of Arizona contributing about 18,000 to that number, it is imperative to make sure all students feel safe and welcomed.
Raising awareness for youth in foster care, as well as encouraging positive behaviors for students in schools, can help to minimize issues that can have long-term effects, such as dropouts, physical harm, mental abuse, and financial theft. By making both children and adults aware of the gravity of the decisions that are made on the Internet, we are contributing to an environment where students can thrive.
Bullying and Cyberbullying
Even with the ESSA foster care provisions, children in foster care may find themselves attending a new school. New students are among the most frequent bullying victims. Cyberbullying poses different dangers that can be lasting. With constant connectivity and permanence of actions, this form of bullying can be archived and damaging to victims.
In order to protect students, it is important to teach them proper online and real-life etiquette. Let children know what information is private, and the consequences that may be associated with revealing personal content. Though we, as adults, should be mindful of the concerns the Internet poses, it is also important to regard the Internet as a place for young minds to learn, explore, grow, and connect.
Bullies and cybercriminals can use cyberstalking to monitor or track locations, access cameras and computer documents, and spread rumors to destroy an individual or group’s reputation. Stalking is a serious concern that can easily happen to children in foster care, regardless of the frequency of changing housing arrangements.
Children in foster care leave a documented trail of previous locations and housing, some more lengthy than others, making them a target for cyberstalking and other crimes. Guardians should communicate with their children about the information they share online and be mindful of how it can be used. Reference the green graphic above to find out more about cyberstalking.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft is one of the most secretive of cybercrimes. Not only can it be difficult to prevent, but children often don't realize they have fallen victim until they reach adulthood. The New York Post reported that 1 million children had their identities stolen in 2017, more than half who were younger than 8 years old.
Youth in the foster care system are at a particularly high risk for these situations. Identity theft in foster care frequently occur during foster transitional periods when guardians lose or misuse child social security numbers. This information can be used to file fraudulent tax returns, open credit card accounts, or even obtaining government benefits. Though it can be hard to detect once it transpires, following basic steps to protect sensitive information and being proactive could help to save a child’s identity and future before it happens. You can find more information about identity theft and how to help prevent it here.
Author: B. Scott
As always, if you or someone from your organization, would like to highlight a success story from a student in foster care or promote a needed resource, please email [email protected].