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7 Ways to Help Protect Your Kids’ Privacy against Smart Toy Vulnerabilities

You have invested in smart toys for the little ones. They provide a fun way to learn while keeping them entertained. Such toys incorporate artificial intelligence, making them interactive. They can learn the user behavior and model appropriate feedback.

The benefits of such toys are many. Such include better social skills and help spark the child’s imagination. If statistics are anything to go by, the smart toy industry is on an upward trajectory. Experts predict that by 2026, the industry could be worth almost $70 billion.

However, there are some very real concerns about smart toy vulnerabilities. Hackers can access such toys and collect valuable data.

Our article will share ways to protect your kid’s privacy against such vulnerabilities.

What You Need To Know To Protect Kids from Smart Toy Vulnerabilities

Research by The Times showed that up to two-thirds of connected smart toys share data with third parties. Such include advertising companies that were not very forthcoming about encryption levels.

Concerns about vulnerabilities have led to warnings about buying smart toys. The major issues are around family identity theft. Others are hacker access to sensitive data that can expose the users. 

Such include GPS information and visual identifiers from videos and pictures. The risk of exploitation is very high and remains a top concern with regards to smart toys.  

However, it is all not gloom and doom. There are steps you can take to protect your kid’s privacy.  We will explore some of them below. 

How to Protect Your Child’s Privacy

1. Do Your Research

Take a little time to research the smart toy you want to buy. Some have especially high levels of vulnerabilities. You can get that information from reading customer reviews.

There are advocacy websites specific to children that can also give you this information. The Federal trade commission (FTC) also has a list of toys that have passed privacy tests. 

It also helps to pay attention to the company’s privacy practices. It should provide relevant information such as those concerning privacy issues. 

Also, be curious about where they store your data. It should highlight which third parties have access to the data they collect. 

2. Ask the Right Questions about the Smart Toys

Before purchasing the toy, take the time to learn a little bit more about it. Some important points to consider are:

  • Does it connect to a database, and if so, why?
  • Can some of the features compromise the safety of the kid? Facial recognition, for example, may store images on another platform.
  • What other information will you need to share? Do they, for example, want to know things like age, name, and physical address?
  • How long does the company store the data they collect?
  • Do you need to connect to third-party websites to get access to some functionalities? If yes, check that the websites are safe.  Most importantly, look to see that they have the necessary security measures in place.

The above are just some of the things you need to find out. Ask all the relevant questions to have a good idea of what you’re purchasing.

3. Look At the Smart Toy Features

Pay attention to some of the features of the smart toy.  A camera or microphone shows the ability to record.  Do you know where the recordings go?  If the storage is on the cloud, who has access to the data. 

Also, check if the kids can connect to social media accounts or send emails as their social media safety is highly important. You want those that give you full control over management and setup. 

Buy a toy that alerts you of some of its actions. A flashing indicator may, for example, show that the microphone is on. Some of the apps operate in background mode.  You may think that the device is off. Yet, in reality, the hacker could be up to no good. It takes us back to the point of switching off devices when not in use. 

4. Install an SSL Proxy

An SSL proxy offers security while keeping your kid anonymous on the online space. A good example is a socks proxy that acts as a middleman between your browser and the remote server.

Any information coming in or going out goes through the proxy. It sieves harmful content, only letting the safe ones through.  It provides anonymity by shielding your IP address. Hackers will not know where your kid is browsing from.

Most importantly, the encryption ensures they cannot access your site. Germany had to issue a ban on smartwatches for children. Strangers were tracking kids’ movements due to information from the watches. The Manufacturers had not put in place encryption measures.

5. Only Allow the Use of Safe Connections

Please do not allow the kids to use their smart toys using public Wi-Fi. It also helps to take steps to secure your network. Switch off the automatic connection for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It allows you more control because the connection is not on every time.

Change the default device password. Pick a strong password for proper security. If possible, implement two-factor authentication to ensure higher security. Ensure data encryption when using the cloud, server, or Wi-Fi. 

6. Run Regular Updates

Software updates are critical because you get the latest security features. It helps seal any security loops that hackers can use. Check that the company sends out updates regularly. If not, you may want to avoid buying such smart toys. 

7. Be Vigilant About the Use of Smart Toys

Smart toys are fantastic because you don’t have to keep a constant eye on the kids. They are an excellent diversion, especially for busy parents. However, it does not absolve you of the responsibility to monitor what the kids are doing online. Opt for those that allow parental restrictions for specific sites. 

Also, take the time to educate the little ones on online etiquette. Teach them to be vigilant and what to do if they notice anything weird.

Final Thoughts

Smart toys bring a lot of conveniences. Your kids can use them for education and entertainment. However, the onus is on you to keep your kids safe. Proper research is critical before purchasing any of them.

It also helps to improve security with a strong password. Installing an SSL proxy keeps the kids anonymous while online by hiding your IP address. Finally, be super vigilant about how the kids use smart toys.

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