Smart Toys: Please Play Responsibly

October 23, 2017

In today’s technology-obsessed world and on-demand culture, staying connected has become increasingly crucial, whether it be social media, autonomous vehicles, or smart home appliances. But staying connected isn’t just trendy for millennials. Connectivity has now made its mark on our kids as young as 12 years and under in the form of smart toys, which can now connect to mobile apps and games consoles. Smart toys have become a hot market for toy vendors, with Juniper Research predicting that by 2020, smart-toy sales worldwide will grow from about $2.8 billion in 2015 to $11.3 billion.

As more vendors equip toys with smart technology, we’ve seen our children become more engaged and interactive. We’ve also seen how kids can reap educational benefits from connected toys, rather than a set of building blocks. However, while the smart toy market may have you wishing you were a kid again, it’s not all fun and games. It’s important to be aware of the fact that an Internet-connected toy could quite possibly leave your child vulnerable. Think about all the personal data put at risk, such as family names, birthdays, pictures, your home address and – what was intended to be – recordings or private conversations. After all, toymakers aren’t security experts at the end of the day.

Call to action: What can we do to protect our children?

Do your research! Read the box. Also look at reviews, websites and news about the product. You can even reach out to the manufacturer directly.

Ask questions! It’s important when considering a toy to ask:

  • What data does this toy collect?
  • How is this data being stored?
  • Who has access to this data and how do they use it?
  • Is there an option to opt of data sharing?

Use your resources! You are not alone. There are a ton of resources out there that can help you in the buying and research process, including:

  • Trend Micro’s Internet of Things Buyer’s Guide for Smart Parents and Guardians: Ahead of the 2016 holiday season, Trend Micro released a buyer's guide and interactive content package to prepare shoppers and inform parents and guardians about potential privacy and security vulnerabilities in smart toy features and other internet-connected devices.
  • Family Tech Talk: This program provides parents with guidelines on how to best approach an open discussion with their kids to educate them about digital responsibility. In addition to discussing privacy and security concerns on the Internet, this is also an opportunity to talk to your kids about cyberbullying and the importance of practicing human kindness on social media.

Written by

Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens is the Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families program with the mission of helping kids around the world become great digital citizens. Founded in 2008, the program has now reached over 2.5 million students, parents and teachers in 20 countries.

With over 25 years of experience in the technology industry, Lynette regularly speaks, blogs and works with communities and school districts around the world. She has helped build a global force of hundreds of employee volunteers and a network of collaborations with NGOs, technology companies, schools, government and law enforcement organizations to make online safety, digital citizenship, and media literacy education a priority for every child.

Lynette holds a B.S. from Boston College and an M.B.A from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a board member of the National Association of Media Literacy Education, and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day. She is a mother of two, wife of one, tireless pro-youth, pro-tech advocate and believer that the impact of technology on society is completely in our hands.

Twitter: @lynettetowens