After the CloudPets fiasco in 2017 parents are finally getting smarter about smart toys. Many are now saying connected toys are off the shopping list, going as far as asking family and friends to avoid buying them for their kids.
While many toys are designed with great engineering and creativity, toy companies haven't had to contend with the challenges always-on connectivity throws into the mix. New research by Norton has found about half of parents do not plan to buy their child a device that connects to the internet this Christmas and that those thinking they will are planning on that purchase being either a tablet, mobile phone, laptop or gaming console.
That attitude towards connected toys and gifts is quite strong with 75% saying they would dispose of or return a child’s present if they thought it posed a cyber security risk. Almost two-thirds see toys with voice recording capabilities, cameras or app-driven tools as a cyber security risk to their home. One in three parents do not feel well informed on protecting themselves from hackers invading family privacy and personal data and a quarter don't feel well informed about protecting themselves from financial loss as a result of their children’s online behaviour.
So, what can you do? Mark Gorrie, a cyber security expert at Norton, says parents need to investigate the full journey of the toy you’re buying or receiving and look into the connected features that may put your child’s privacy and identity at risk. That includes checking into the online content associated with the toy. He also advocates playing online games with your child, using it as an opportunity to point out where potential risks are and showing kids click-bait advertising, game chat rooms, or content searches that can lead into dangerous territories.
When connected, or IoT, toys aren't in use, recording capabilities and microphone functions should be disabled and cameras should be covered just in case the toy is compromised.
Connected toys can be fun but they can pose a threat to your kids and household. Do your homework before buying and continue to monitor their use and update their firmware after purchase.