Does Your Child Need a State ID?It’s pretty common for individuals to carry some form of identification on them, given that IDs tend to be required for everything from traveling to making expensive purchases. While children aren’t held to the same standards as adults when it comes to providing proof of age or identification, many states nevertheless allow them to apply for state-issued photo IDs. Is it a good idea for your child to take advantage of this and get their own ID? In this post, we detail some of the reasons why you may wish to get an ID for your child so you can determine if it’s the right option for your family.

Is there anything your child needs an ID for?

As stated above, while adults need an ID for many things, the same isn’t exactly true of children. For example, children don’t need to verify their identity when making purchases because they generally don’t use credit cards. Even in cases where it’s clearer that children could benefit from having an ID, like when traveling, the circumstances under which they’ll actually need it are very specific. For international travel, the only accepted form of identification is a passport. Although the TSA does not require minors under 18 to have identification while traveling, airlines have their own rules. For domestic travel, these rules can differ, subjecting children of different ages to specific rules. If proof of age or identification is requested, having a state ID can be useful, especially if a child is old enough to travel unaccompanied.

In addition to travel, a child may need an ID for certain social interactions, depending on their age. For example, if they’re attending a PG-13 movie without an adult, the theater may ask them to prove their age — something that will be hard to do without a state ID. Keep in mind that these instances depend on the discretion of the company or institution asking for it, meaning there’s no guarantee that your child will be asked for an ID.

Are there additional benefits to having an ID?

Until your child becomes a teen, there won’t be a strong need for an ID, due to the limited circumstances under which it’d be required. Outside of certain traveling conditions and some social interactions, your child would likely not be required to identify themselves. Still, that doesn’t mean that there’s no point to getting an ID. Some parents suggest that having an ID is a great way to make kids responsible and become comfortable and familiar with situations where it’s appropriate to provide one’s ID. Additionally, a number of states have programs that can use state-issued IDs to help search for lost or missing children. An ID can also be a quick way of fighting child identity theft, as it will prevent thieves from being able to get their own ID with your child’s social security number. In the same vein, an ID can provide a quick means of authenticating your child’s identity to the police and to credit bureaus should they become an identity theft victim.

When should my child get an ID?

There’s no ideal age for a child to get an ID, and many states don’t have age requirements that exclude young children from getting an ID. Still, some parents might want to be cautious about the prospect. Since an ID is a personally identifying piece of documentation, the idea of losing it can be devastating, as it contains many of the details an identity thief or predator would need to assume your child’s identity, harass them or otherwise take advantage of them. Weighted against the fact that children, especially very young one, aren’t likely to be in a situation where they’d need an ID, getting one can seem like an unnecessary risk. This ultimately means the decision to get an ID for your child and at what age to do so will be a personal decision.

Keep in mind that since IDs are valid for multiple years, you can get one for your child and hold on to it until you believe them to be responsible enough to carry it on their person. Ideally, by the time your child’s a teen, they’ll have an ID in the form of a driver’s license, if not, this age range is probably the time where having an ID will prove to be most beneficial.

For more information about protecting your family from identity theft, keep reading our identity theft blog.