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Technology

These holiday ‘smart toys’ can spy on kids

There’s no doubt we’re living in a “smart” world nowadays. Many people have completely turned their homes into smart homes with things like smart lights, outlets, garage door hubs, door locks, appliances and more.

If you want to get in on the trend but don’t know where to begin, check out Kim’s smart home starter kit. Tap or click here for tips on what to buy first and how to set up your smart home.

Adults aren’t the only ones getting in on the action. There are tons of smart toys for the kids to enjoy, too. But be careful. Some of these smart toys can be used to spy on your kids.

Always do your research before you buy

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are everywhere these days. This, of course, means the items connect to the internet. Smart TVs, speakers, appliances, wearables and even smart refrigerators are IoT devices.

There are even toys that connect to the internet, and this is the problem.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning parents that smart toys, speakers and other IoT gadgets intended for children could pose a risk to not only their personal data, but they could also be used to spy on kids as they play.

We’ve seen examples in the past where hackers were able to take control of smart products, listen in on children near the toy if it includes a microphone and hackers can even watch what kids are doing if the toy has a built-in camera.

For example, the FREDI Baby Monitor’s lack of security is troubling. It doesn’t encrypt communications, it has no privacy policy and the company doesn’t disclose if it shares information with third parties.

Another gift option that makes the Naughty List is the DJI Spark Selfie Drone. It has no encryption, its privacy policy is a mess and it shares your information with third parties.

We’ve previously written about devices that pose privacy risks. Tap or click here to see a complete list of items to stay away from.

To help protect your kids’ data, the FTC suggests asking yourself the following questions before buying internet-connected toys:

  • Does the toy come with a camera or microphone? What will it be recording, and will you know when the camera or microphone is on?
  • Does the toy let your child send emails or connect to social media accounts?
  • Can parents control the toy and be involved in the setup and management? What controls and options does it have? What are the default settings?

The answers to these questions can help you know what to look for in potentially dangerous toys. Keep reading for more helpful tips.

You might also like: 4 clever ways smart tech can make your home safer

How to keep children safe in the IoT era

With more and more IoT toys hitting the market, you really need to research them before buying. Here are some more suggestions the U.S. government says you should follow:

  • Be aware of what information is collected by the IoT device, whether or not it will be shared and how long the data is kept by the company.
  • Research whether the toymaker has been a victim of a data breach in the past. If so, how was it handled?
  • Change the toy’s default passwords and privacy settings. Only allow the toy to collect the information necessary for it to run properly.

Follow these suggestions and you will have a better chance of staying protected. Have a merry and safe Christmas!

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