New FOSI Research Finds Teens Increasingly Concerned About Online Identity Theft

November 5, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Young people are increasingly concerned about the privacy of their personal information online and that their identities can be stolen through their use of social media, according to a new report released today by the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).

The report, "Teen Identity Theft: Fraud, Security, and Steps Teens are Taking to Protect Themselves Online," found that over three-quarters of teens are very or somewhat concerned about the privacy of their personal information being harmed by their online activity, including 43% who are very concerned. This is up from the two in three teens who were very (35%) or somewhat (30%) concerned just a year ago.

In another big shift in teen attitudes about Internet use, the proportion of teens who say they are very concerned about someone stealing their identity using information they have posted online has climbed from 43 percent one year ago to 51 percent today. This is particularly pronounced among girls. But at the same time, comparatively few teens feel that they personally are at risk of having their identity stolen and used for someone else's financial gain.

The report was conducted by Hart Research Associates. It included two focus groups and a nationwide online survey conducted in October among 558 teens ages 13 to 17 who access the Internet.

"This new report reveals teens' concerns about identity theft as well as the steps they are taking to protect their personal information online," said Stephen Balkam CEO of FOSI. "These findings will help us increase awareness and educate both teens and parents."

The report is a detailed follow-up to research FOSI released last year, which revealed that identity theft is the top online concern for teens. These new findings come in the wake of concerns raised by the Federal Trade Commission and lawmakers in a number of states about identity thieves targeting young people.

Children and teens are particularly susceptible to identity theft because they often have clean credit that may not be monitored for long periods of time. Maryland and Utah recently enacted legislation that would allow parents to freeze their child's credit to help prevent identity theft and other states are considering similar measures. The new FOSI survey asked teens about parents putting a security freeze on their credit and most teens support this.

Other key findings from the FOSI report include the following:

  • Many teen Internet users indicate that personal information about them is available online, and one in three has shared his/her username and password with someone other than his/her parent; 34% of teens say they have shared one of their usernames and passwords with someone other than their parent or guardian, including 23% who have shared it with a friend or significant other.
  • While most online teens are using privacy settings for at least some of their online accounts and many are taking other precautions, teens could be doing more to protect the privacy of their information online. Sixty-nine percent (69%) of teens report that they have set up one of their devices to auto-lock, which requires a password to be able to use it; 56% of teens use a variety of passwords for their online accounts.
  • There is a notable increase in teen access to mobile Internet technology. Sixty-four percent (64%) of teens surveyed report owning or having access to a smartphone, up from 43% last year. While access to any type of cell phone (92%) appears consistent with 2012 (90%), increased access to smartphones represents an important change in the means by which teens use the Internet.
  • Tablet ownership and access is also on the rise: 67% of teen Internet users report having access to tablets, up from 45% in 2012.

The report was released at FOSI's 2013 Annual Conference, entitled "Connect, Share, Empower," which is taking place Nov. 6-7 in Washington, D.C. FOSI has brought together the most influential thinkers in online safety: academics, educators, law enforcement, industry, policy makers, and non-profits. The report was sponsored by Google and Symantec Corporation.

Some of the conference speakers include: author Rosalind Wiseman, researcher danah boyd, and panels focused on the "Internet of Things," mobile app privacy, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, international approaches to online safety, and more. (Follow the conference on Twitter: #fosi2013)

The full text of the new report along with information about the conference can be accessed at

About FOSI

The Family Online Safety Institute is an international, non-profit organization that works to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes leaders in industry, government and non-profit sectors to collaborate and develop new solutions and policies in the field of online safety. Through research, resources, events and special projects, FOSI promotes a culture of responsibility online and encourages a sense of digital citizenship for all. FOSI's membership includes 30 of the leading Internet and telecommunications companies around the world.