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Back-to-School Forms and Kids' Privacy

It's a back-to-school tradition: Kids bringing home a stack of forms for their parents to fill out.

While it may be drudgery to provide the same information for kid after kid, year after year, but you want to be helpful. You also want to be sure your child's personal information is protected.

"Many school forms require personal and sensitive information," notes the Federal Trade Commission and then gives these suggestions on how to safeguard that information.

  1. Safeguard your child’s Social Security number 
    If a form asks for a Social Security number, asks why it's necessary or if you can just give the last four digits or a different identifying number.
  2. Know your rights under FERPA
    The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates what can be done with student records and gives you the option of not sharing your child's contact information with third parties, including directories shared with other families.
  3. Limit what your kids share online
    Tell them not to post their name, address or full date of birth on social media. For more tips, see our article on protecting kids' privacy.
  4. Use strong passwords
    We know; you haven't logged into the school's portal since June and can't remember the password. You want to reset it with an easy-to-remember one. But you should vary your passwords, make them hard to guess and tell your kids not to share them, especially college students who share living quarters with a bunch of new people.
  5. Use a shredder
    Including on your kids' papers. 
  6. When your kids turns 16, check their credit report
    Doing so at that point means that if they are the victims of errors or fraud, there is still time to fix them before they need to apply for a job, loan or apartment.

Now get a fresh pen and spread those first-day papers out on the kitchen table. You have homework to do.

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