Do your children play with smart toys? These are toys that have some kind of internet connectivity capabilities, whether it’s a teddy bear with a camera and microchip or a doll that uses artificial intelligence to develop a relationship with its owner.
Toys like this might be fun, but parents and kids should be aware of what they’re inviting into their home. Some toys have been found to be equipped with recording devices that companies could use to mine personal information about the child and the whole family. Families should have thoughtful conversations about any device that’s able to listen and record in the home – not just toys, but any smart home device.
If you do decide to welcome smart toys and other devices into your home, keep these tips in mind for the safest experience possible.
- Create fake online accounts. It is completely legit for you set up your child’s account with a different name, fake picture, and other false information. And most of the time, you can refuse to provide it all together. Parents have become accustomed to handing over personal information to companies in order to get a more personalized experience, whether they’re setting up a kid’s toy or signing up for streaming TV. But there’s always a chance that the database where that information is stored could be stolen. A fake account keeps you and your child safer.
- Use a P.O. box for your billing and delivery address. Many toys enable you to buy additional features, content, services or add-on products. When you pay with a credit card, you’ll be required to provide a billing address and a delivery address, which are both usually your home address. That information is usually lumped in there with the personal data the company stores about you and your child. Instead of your home address, use a P.O. box, so you never have to worry about malicious hackers posting your child’s home address on a criminal website somewhere
- Talk with your kids about internet-savvy behavior. Whether your child is playing with a smart doll or hanging out with friends on an online video game, there are ways of behaving that will keep them safer. Never giving out personal information, always notifying an adult if they see or hear something that doesn’t seem right, blocking anyone who seems suspicious, and asking for permission before making any purchases are all good rules of thumb.