During the holiday season, it is no surprise that you and your families are flooded with a variety of gift ideas that your children and the whole family will love. Perhaps you’ve seen toy commercials on TV, heard radio ads or scrolled through never-ending lists on social media. Gimmicks and bright colors never fail to grab the attention of whoever is looking. The last thing any parent wants to worry about is someone invading their child’s privacy. However, before you consider yourself sold on a gift idea, beware of these security risks that may be lurking in your holiday presents.
At a glance, tech toys may seem completely harmless with no reason for concern. Gadget gifts are becoming more popular as the demand for interactive toys continues to rise. Companies use phrases such as, “educational playtime,” and “offering new ways to play and learn” to appeal to parents.
Interactive smart toys may be used as a great tool and educational resource. In fact, there is a lot of research behind the benefits of tech toys in and outside the classroom.
A smart toy, referred to as the next generation of play, is described as an imaginary best friend that is as unique as you are. They are considered “interactive learning friends” that actually talk, respond and remember things. These traits require a censor, the censor collects data and the data has to be stored somewhere – meaning it can be hacked.
The downside, however, is that when a toy is connected to the internet, it is vulnerable and targeted by hackers. Many toys connect to Wi-Fi, cameras, recorders and apps. Each of these capabilities could be a safety and privacy concern and can make your children vulnerable.
An example of this is a popular toy called “My Friend Cayla.” While the intention with this doll may have been great, fear quickly spread with how vulnerable the technology seemed. The doll uses Bluetooth, which transmits audio recordings through the internet. This makes the doll vulnerable to hacking, where someone could listen to, talk to or record a child.
Take some time to look into the companies and manufacturers and research if they have any history of being hacked. If a company has been hacked once or twice, it’s not a bad idea to look elsewhere. Another tip to remember is to look closely at the user agreements. Some companies may have slipped something into the agreement that gives them the right to record and use that information as they please.
A good rule of thumb this holiday season is to always do your research before buying internet enabled toys, and be proactive about securing your data.
What has your experience been with smart toys? Comment below, we would love to hear your take on this!