Junior Counselors Program Teaches Kids to Make Security ‘Second Nature’ Online

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Nearly 400,000 kids get their identities stolen each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

That figure is staggering, yet sadly, only going to increase in time, according to Neal O’Farrell, founder and executive director of the Identity Theft Council (ITC). He explains that children and teens are prime targets for identity theft because they have clean credit records and unblemished finances.

That’s a big reason why he has launched a “Junior Counselor” program at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco. More than 120 students have pledged to be better “cyber secure” citizens, learning how to prevent identity theft and implement better online safety overall.

“It is so important for parents and their children to have an understanding of the risks and threats of identity fraud. By becoming more aware of the connection between identity theft and everyday life, students can become messengers and advocates in the fight against identity theft, in their local communities,” he says.

Part of the program, dubbed “Reach and Teach,” will help the student volunteers understand the behaviors that will make security “second nature” in their digital lives.

The ITC’s informational site for students points out that this program can also help protect schools against data breaches and other security risks. According to the Open Security Foundation’s Data Loss Database, one in every five data breaches reported in 2010 happened at a school or college.

Ultimate Goal: Creating Advocates

The ITC says it wants to turn the student volunteers into advocates who can then teach their peers, family, and friends about the growing threats and latest prevention techniques, and encourage high schools around the country to join the cause.

Hopefully, this program can also teach kids about better online morals and ethics. After all, a 2009 study by Panda Security found that 67% of the teens surveyed admitted they tried to hack into friends’ instant messaging or social network accounts.

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi’s manager of digital content strategy.