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Keep your family safe with our top tips for buying smart toys and devices.

More and more toys and devices aimed at children are connected to the internet and collect and process data in some way. It is important to protect your child when buying a smart toy or device. Here we share our top tips to manage how your personal and private data is used by smart toys and their manufacturers.

1. Do your research

Make sure you research the products before you buy them. The manufacturer’s website should include the privacy policies, terms and conditions and update protocol. If a security issue is identified, how will the software be updated to remove the threat? If you’re buying online, check reviews from other buyers, as there might be some red herrings on unusual activity.

2. Make like an elf and set up the toy before Christmas Day

Don’t wait until Christmas Day to open the packaging and set everything up. You might be tempted to skip important set-up steps that put your data at risk. Giving yourself enough time to make sure that the toy or device is using your or your child’s data securely will minimise risk in the long run.

3. Don’t give the gift of your passwords to potential thieves

Smart devices often come with a default password, so make sure you change the password immediately. If possible use a strong combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use any identifiable information in the password. Thieves will comb the internet looking for default passwords to try and hack your data, so don’t make it easy for them!

4. You better watch the camera settings

Remember a few years ago when baby monitors with videos could be hacked and the criminals could view everything the camera saw? Well smart toys and devices often have a camera feature, so make sure you’re familiar with the settings. If you won’t be viewing footage over the internet, turn off remote viewing options. If you will be using the feature, setting strong passwords to connect to the remote footage will help to minimise the risk of someone else accessing the camera feed.

5. Tracking Santa is fun. People tracking your children...not so fun! Sort out the GPS

Smart watches for children have GPS settings so that you can locate your child at any time. This is a brilliant feature, but you need to set up the GPS settings securely. Turn off default location tracking and set strong passwords so that only you can find your child through the device.

6. Talk to your children about their online safety and data rights

Honest and open discussions about staying safe online are vital to help children feel comfortable online. Children have data protection rights, and it is important that parents and guardians educate children on the dangers as well as the opportunities that the internet offers. If you’ve bought a smart toy or device, have a conversation about how it collects data, what data it collects and how the data is used. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable with it, perhaps wait until they are older before gifting smart devices.

7. Its OK to be a Grinch if you’re not confident in the device security

If you’ve researched a product and aren’t completely happy with the way the manufacturer will use your data, don’t buy it. If it is a toy or device that your child has asked for, explain to them that the security wasn’t up to your standards, and why that is important. If you’ve already a bought a device and then discover a flaw in the security, report it to the manufacturer and ask for a refund.

These tips were put together with advice from the ICO’s blog. View their detailed post about smart toys and child safety here:

Date published: 07/12/2017

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