Safeguarding your family’s personal data on smart toys

child playing on her smart device

It’s tempting to want to get the latest toys for your children. Technology has played its part in helping to create toys that can seem more sophisticated and exciting compared to traditional playthings. However, the latest tech can also bring problems, potentially allowing cybercriminals to gather data about you and your family.

Which? found in December 2019 that many of the most popular smart toys had potential security risks. One Bluetooth smart karaoke machine, for example, had no PIN or restrictions stopping anyone from sending recorded voice notes to the device via Bluetooth.

So what can you do to keep your children smart about smart device security?

Keeping children safe online

When it comes to buying any new smart toy or device, there are a few areas of concern you should address first.

1. How does the toy interact with your child?

By discovering what the toy’s functions include, you can have a better understanding of the risks that could arise.

For example – does the smart device have a chat function that connects them to other users? Can the device connect to other smart devices, which could mean your child receiving messages to their phone or tablet?

2. What personal information does the toy require?

Some games and devices require a user profile to be built – including email addresses, locations, age, gender and more. This isn’t always a bad thing and can enhance the experience, but be mindful if the device is from a reputable firm with a solid security system set in place.

Don’t share any information that you don’t want to with the company producing the toys. If you’re worried about any information that they insist on having, consider whether it’s worth having the toy.

3. Is there a camera?

Cameras and in-built microphones can be more vulnerable to hackers, or risk being misused.

You can see if you can turn off or cover the microphone or camera when the device isn’t in use, as this is often a feature included.

4. Does the toy come with additional in-app purchases or subscriptions?

Upgrades and bundles thrown in as additional extras could trick your child into signing up for costly subscriptions or sharing more information, such as card details and phone numbers.

General smart device security practical tips

Once you’ve assessed the questions above, if you go ahead and buy a smart device, you can still take steps to avoid potential security risks.

  • Use secure passwords, and manage any passwords related to the toys – don’t leave this up to your child.
  • Ensure that you have the latest internet security measures installed, and update these whenever needed.
  • Don’t leave the toys connected when they’re not being played with. Turn them off to ensure that they’re disconnected.
  • Try not to operate Bluetooth-enabled toys in public spaces. Bluetooth can be accessed from a close distance, so hackers who are nearby could potentially try to gain access to your child’s toy.
  • Make sure your children are supervised when they’re playing with smart toys.

If you’re worried that your personal details have been compromised, you may want to check your Equifax Report & Score. Free for the first 30 days then £7.95 monthly, it includes WebDetect, which alerts you if your data is found on websites frequented by fraudsters.

Online toys are one of many household items that could expose you and your family to identity fraud. Find out what other smart gadgets could put you at the risk of identity theft.

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