From tablets to baby dolls, smart toys are becoming the go-to for children these days. Stuffed animals once filled with stuffing are now hard-wired with smart technology. If your child is a proud owner of an internet-connected toy, keep in mind this fun device could put your family at risk if proper care is not taken when using these devices.
The Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) is finding toys that may collect personal information (e.g. name, email address) from children. Unfortunately, this may be done without parents knowing it’s happening. These connected toys aren’t inherently bad; in fact, they can be highly educational and fun as long as parents are well-informed and choose wisely. But if you choose the wrong toy, there can be consequences.
Your Better Business Bureau urges responsible parents to consider these tips when buying a smart toy for their little one:
Do your research.
Whether it is a toy your child already has or one you are looking to purchase, doing your research is vital. Most information you need can be found online or on the box.
Doing an internet search of the product and reading online reviews can be a huge help as well. Check the company’s business profile on bbb.org. A simple search may uncover a slew of security issues.
Use a secure connection.
Only connect toys over secure, password-protected Wi-Fi or VPN (Virtual Private Network). Avoid using public connections, which may easily allow unwanted access to toys if there are security flaws.
Check the settings.
Don’t assume privacy settings are set by default; check the parental controls and don’t forget to password-protect your settings. Be aware of parental controls and safety measures the toy has in place like limiting who your child can communicate with.
Turn it off.
Turn off all connected devices when not in use to ensure personal information is not inadvertently collected.
If you’re worried about kids’ online interactions, use programs and the devices’ built-in features to turn off internet connectivity, disable digital purchases and restrict interactions to pre-approved friend lists.