When people think about IoT devices, many often think of those that fill their homes. Smart lights, ovens, TVs, etc. But there’s a whole other type of IoT devices that are inside the home that parents may not be as cognizant of – children’s toys. In 2018, smartwatches, smart teddy bears, and more are all in kids’ hands. And though parents are happy to purchase the next hot item for their children, they sometimes aren’t fully aware of how these devices can impact their child’s personal security. IoT has expanded to children, but it’s parents that need to understand how these toys affect their family, and what they can do to keep their children protected from an IoT-based cyberthreat.
How IoT has become kid-friendly
Being connected to the internet has become second nature to the kids of today. Starting at a fairly young age, kids are already leveraging tablets and phones for games. In fact, a recent McAfee survey revealed that 48% of parents allow their children a solid one to two hours of screen time a day.
Now, add IoT into the mix. The reason people are commonly adopting IoT devices is for one reason – convenience. And that’s the same reason these devices have gotten into children’s hands as well. They’re convenient, engaging, easy-to-use toys, some of which are even used to help educate kids.
But this adoption has changed children’s online security. Now, instead of just limiting their device usage and screen time, parents have to start thinking about the types of threats that can emerge from their child’s interaction with IoT devices. For example, smartwatches have been used to track and record kids’ physical location. And children’s data is often recorded with these devices, which means their data could be potentially leveraged for malicious reasons if a cybercriminal breaches the organization behind a specific connected product or app. The FBI has even previously cautioned that these smart toys can be compromised by hackers.
Keeping connected kids safe
Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to keep their connected kids safe. First off, do the homework. Before buying any connected toy or device for a kid, parents should look up the manufacturer first and see if they have security top of mind. If the device has had any issues with security in the past, it’s best to avoid purchasing it. Additionally, always read the fine print. Terms and conditions should outline how and when a company accesses a kid’s data. When buying a connected device or signing them up for an online service/app, always read the terms and conditions carefully in order to remain fully aware of the extent and impact of a kid’s online presence and use of connected devices.
Mind you, these IoT toys must connect to a home Wi-Fi network in order to run. If they’re vulnerable, they could expose a family’s home network as a result. Since it can be challenging to lock down all the IoT devices in a home, utilize a solution like McAfee Secure Home Platform to provide protection at the router-level. Also, parents can keep an eye on their kid’s online interactions by leveraging a parental control solution like McAfee Safe Family. They can know what their kids are up to, guard them from harm, and limit their screen time by setting rules and time limits for apps and websites.