Internet-connected toys for kids are ‘hot’ this Christmas – or so the retailers would have you believe. But they also carry dangers that parents need to consider.

In the interests of eSafety, we asked Mark Gorrie, Cyber Security expert, Norton for some tips on internet-connected toys.

Gorrie said:

New Norton research reveals the attitudes and behaviours of Aussie parents when it comes to digital and online safety over Christmas. It is not just about buying Internet-connected toys for kids; it is about how not to fall victim to cyber-crime while online shopping; and how to promote digital wellness amongst your family this holiday season.

Cybersecurity and digital safety are leading purchase decision drivers this Christmas

  • 50% of parents do not plan to buy their child an Internet-connected toys this Christmas.
  • The other will gift a tablet (25%), mobile phone(24%), a laptop (20%) or a gaming console (19%).

Parents who do not plan to buy Internet-connected toys are taking drastic measures to avoid these entering the home.

We are not saying they are wrong – just aware of the issues and risks.

  • 51% of parents ask family and friends not to buy their children presents that need online technology interaction.
  • 75% would go so far as to dispose of or return a child’s present if they thought it posed a cybersecurity risk.
  • 63% see toys with voice recording capabilities, cameras or app-driven tools as a cybersecurity risk to their home.

Wi-Fi or app-driven internet-connected toys are obvious cyber risks

Parents need to be aware of the ‘offline’ toys which drive kids online to continue, extend or join a conversation about the toy experiences (e.g. Polly Pocket dolls or HarryPotter Lego sets that drive to online video content, online game adventures). Key concerns for parents include:

  • 33% of parents do not feel well informed on protecting themselves from hackers invading family privacy and personal data.
  • 25% do not feel well informed about protecting themselves from financial loss as a result of their children’s online behaviour.Cybercrime cost Australians AU$2.3 billion in 2017, and it costs everyday Australians close to $200 onaverage
  • 20% of parents do not feel well informed aboutprotecting their child/children from viewing or accessing inappropriatecontent.

We’re not saying we don’t gift your kid’s Internet-connected toys. Just be aware that the connection opens virtual backdoors.

This is really a spying tool underneath the cute fur

Gorrie says

  1. Vet and investigate the full journey of the toy you are buying/receiving: Investigate the connected features that may put your child’s privacy and identity at risk. Check the online content associated with the toy. Be informed about what the child is receiving it might do online as a result.
  2. Educate your child about online safety by showing them: Play an online game with your child and point out where potential risks are as you see them. Look out for click bait advertising, game chat rooms, or content searches that can lead to dangerous territories.
  3. Turnoff IoT connected toys when they aren’t in use: Turn off recording capabilities and microphone functions when a toy is put back on the shelf. Cover devices with cameras while they are not in use to ensure hackers can’t peak into your home should the toy be compromised.
  4. Protect your bank details: Always look for the padlock symbol in the address bar, as this shows that the website is secure. Be careful when letting a website‘remember’ your credit card details and consider retyping them if you don’t shop there regularly. Only use trusted shopping sites
  5. Invest in, or renew your security subscription:Use Christmas as an annual reminder to ensure your online security software andprocesses are up to date. The latest Security subscriptions include parental control software to controlcontent, websites, and times kids can access the internet
  6. Avoidfree public Wi-Fi or secure it: Free public Wi-Fi is insecure – it can be easyfor hackers to intercept your connection and steal personal and financialinformation at a cafe or hotel on shared Wi-Fi. Protect your connection with an easy to use VPN to encryptyour information.

Norton has a longer analysis of the impacts of internet-connected toys here,