Every parent wants to make sure they give their children the best gifts for the holidays. Hello Barbie, Furbies, and other internet-connected toys are popular among kids, but they’re also popular among hackers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying a tech toy this holiday season.
1. What toy are you thinking of purchasing?
If you’re thinking of buying a tech toy for your child, research that toy thoroughly. Make sure that the toy does not have a history of being hacked. Also check what steps you can take to ensure your child’s privacy if a toy has a GPS, microphone, or a camera. Toys should be fun, but they shouldn’t put your child’s personal information or security at risk.
2. Is your Wi-Fi connection secure?
Many tech toys access the internet to perform some of their functions. Just as you would with smart home assistants like Echo, Alexa, or Google Home, make sure that the internet connection is secure.
Having a secure, private Wi-Fi connection protected by a strong password helps keep hackers off your network and away from your data. By securing your home Wi-Fi network, you protect all your connected devices and the data they transmit.
3. Can you turn the toy off?
Another way to prevent information from being stolen via your child’s tech toy is to turn it off while it is not in use. Not only does this conserve its battery, but it also stops the toy from collecting information (and makes that information inaccessible to anyone who might be snooping around for it).
Similarly, low-tech measures like covering a camera with tape or placing a toy that can record in a place where it wold be difficult to pick up conversations (e.g. a closet or drawer) can limit intrusions into your family’s privacy.
4. Have you talked to your kids about using the toy?
After everything’s unwrapped and your kid has settled in to play with their gift, have a conversation with them about how to use it safely.
This conversation does not have to be overly complex or frightening. It is important to make sure your child knows that “stranger danger” applies to how they use the internet as well as how they interact with others in person. Check out the Federal Trade Commission’s advice for talking to your child about internet safety.
5. Are you assessing the risk?
Treat tech toys like you would any other toy you are thinking of giving to a child. Ask yourself, “Does this have the potential to harm my kid? If so, how, and what can I do to prevent it?”
Make sure you are aware of the way your child is using their tech toy and what kind of security measures there might be to protect their information. Being careful and knowledgeable about the risks associated with these toys is a responsible step toward ensuring your child’s security.