Smart toys — from internet-enabled educational tablets, to teddy bears and Barbie dolls —are at the top of many children’s gift lists.
Smart toys are connected wirelessly to the internet or appropriate software, synced, then controlled with devices such as a tablet or smartphone, through setting up an account.
Smart toys can offer lots of benefits through interactive play and education but it’s important to be aware of the risks.
Age recommendations vary depending on the smart toy, however they may be suitable for children aged 3+.
What to look out for
- Smart toys and accompanying user accounts may store personal information, such as your child’s name, age, gender and, in some instances, location.
- These databases can be exposed to third parties — including hackers — revealing your child’s personal information which may be exploited.
- Inbuilt cameras and microphones may record video or audio of your child.
- If the wireless connection or information storage is inadequately secured, the data and recordings may be accessed by other people and shared without consent, and may allow outsiders to contact your child online without you knowing.
How to stay safe
- Do some background research to get across any obvious safety or security issues.
- Look to change any default usernames and passwords with stronger versions.
- Update software regularly.
- Deactivate any voice or video recording capabilities.
- Secure your home network; it’s wise to change your wi-fi password on a regular basis especially if you’re still using the default password.
- Only pair via Bluetooth with another device you are aware of and can control.
- Be aware of any third-party apps or software that can access your data.
- Understand what happens with the information you, or your child, provide when setting up the account or through interactive play. Learn more about protecting your personal information.