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Internet of Things and Toys

This article talks about how parents in the digital age must dig deeper to ensure that their children are protected and will be able to reap the benefits of these innovations, while avoiding any risk.

The fourth industrial revolution is bringing with it exciting new technological tools and toys, from artificial intelligence, robots, and home assistants to wearables, smart homes, and smart cities. These technological innovations have changed the way we work, we think, we move, we communicate, and more.   

As parents in the digital age, we can be appreciative of these technological advances, but we must also dig deeper to ensure that our children are protected and will be able to reap the benefits of these innovations while avoiding any risk. 


Source: GSMA, The Mobile Economy 2018 

What is the Internet of Things? 

The term Internet of Things (IoT) first emerged in 1999 and it took a few years before we saw the real existence of Internet-connected things.  IoT is a network of things embedded with software and connectivity, which allows the “things” to collect and analyze data. 

Imagine computer chips and sensors integrated into physical objects like appliances, handheld, and wearable devices that then communicate with other devices, such as cloud servers, computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.  Wearable technology or “wearables” are clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies.  Think fitness bands, blood pressure monitors, and the like. 

IoT can describe everything from intelligent thermostats that turn on the heater before you get home, to refrigerators that order orange juice when you run out, to health and fitness trackers that monitor your health.  IoT can also be applied to toys for children and this is where it gets a little tricky.  

What are some of the security concerns that can affect my child? 

The advance of toy companies into the domain of IoT means fantastic new toys for young people, however parents need to understand the risks of having open microphone devices, like talking dolls, dinosaurs, or robots, in the hands of young people.  Wireless connectivity will allow a toy to interact with other data-enabled devices or other toys and this may pose a security risk.   

Parents also need to be aware of open data links in their own homes via toys or other devices, including wearables, such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, and the like.  The majority of devices and wearables are not designed with optimal security or privacy in mind. 

What are some real-world examples of the risks of IoT? 

  • People can access your devices and control them remotely, such as this example where hackers remotely took over a jeep.   
  • People can access your devices and use them to do some tricky things, such as these examples where baby monitors were hacked
  • People can access your devices and share them online such as these intrusions where hackers viewed people in their homes via baby monitors and webcams.  
  • Hello Barbie, a Mattel Internet of Toys venture created in 2015 where Barbie can listen and speak to children, caused concern for parents and privacy experts.  (Barbie also caused leading psychologists to wonder if these types of toys would cause developmental issues for children, affecting their ability to create, imagine and learn autonomously – without Barbie or someone else telling them what to do, what to think.) 

Parents need to keep in mind that all of this technology is exciting, but all of this technology - all of these really exciting devices, smart thermostats, fitness trackers, wifi enabled toys, etc. - are  also COMPUTING DEVICES and parents must be aware of the security concerns. 

What are some general safety tips for IoT, IoToys, and wearables? 

Many of these devices are absolutely fine for purchase, but parents should take appropriate security measures to protect their data, check the privacy settings on all of their devices, check the research on any health risks associated with wearing the device and talk with their children about how to use the devices correctly and what to do if something weird happens.   

This list shows key security tips to be followed while using this kind of device:

  • Restrict personal information on data-enabled devices. 

  • Reinforce your security on your home wireless network by changing the default access password to something only you or your family knows. 

  • Select strong passwords. 

  • Check to see what security options your device offers -- whether it be password protection, user accounts, or remote control options. 

  • Where possible, keep devices separate from each other, on separate networks.   

  • Be sure to monitor the capabilities of those wifi-enabled toys: what can that toy really do? Does the toy allow external access?  

By that and with all its pros and cons and security gaps, IoT is still one of the emerging technological innovations which might be a lifestyle changer with all that it brings from facilities and assistance to us through the automated feature it can carry. With all that, we should never neglect our privacy and the risks such device brings to our life if not well managed


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Ensure you take appropriate measures when using internet of things devices.

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