The pressure of having to own the latest technology can be overwhelming for most of us, but knowing the safest devices and toys to buy for ourselves and our children (and being able to afford it), can be the biggest challenges of all. Keeping safe online can begin even before a purchase has been made!
Before making the decision to buy any type of technology, smart toy or device you might find it helpful to consider the following.
- Do your research! Read reviews of the product you are looking to buy. Importantly, find out about the safety and security features. Understand what it does, how it works and how your child will use it.
- How is data used and protected? Reading the terms and conditions of what data is collected and how it is protected or shared when using smart toys and devices, might help you to decide whether to buy or not.
- Take notice of ‘age recommendations’ and follow them. You know your child the best and have the responsibility when it comes to making safe decisions about the kinds of technology they use and own. Following ‘age recommendations’ can help to ensure that your child is playing with toys and technology that is suitable for their age group.
- If in doubt…think before splashing out! If you have any concerns at all about the safety, privacy or security of the toy or device the toughest but safest decision might be not buying it at all.
- Be patient! Waiting a while to see how new technology performs, in the first few weeks of its release, can help to see if there are any problems with the software. You probably would not buy a toy or device that could cause injury, so avoid buying toys and devices that are proven to be insecure online. Waiting before buying or giving it as a gift, should also give manufacturers time to fix any bugs, glitches or safety concerns with the product.
- Secure your router! Ensure that your home router (the box that makes it possible to connect to the internet) is password protected. Use the manufacturers website to secure the router and set up parental controls. It is easier than you might think. Some routers will allow you to customise settings for different users and devices.
- Open the box and set it up! Before giving the toy or device to your child reduce the stress of having to take it away again and just like putting in the batteries, take time to ‘set it up’ beforehand.
- Encryption! Unsecure web connections are not the only thing that can put our online safety at risk. Some toys and devices have been found to have unencrypted Wi-Fi connections or unsecured Bluetooth, which can make it easier for people to access the devices. If there is no option to secure these in the device’s settings, consider whether using the device is worth the risk. If there is an option to protect them with either a password or a PIN ensure you choose a strong one.
- Security and safety. Some toys and devices are fitted with web cameras/microphones and location GPS. The ability to take, share and store information is both their biggest selling point and, if not set up correctly, potentially their biggest weakness. Take time to read the instructions beforehand, to help manage and secure these functions.
- Health and wellbeing. Toys and devices are a great source of entertainment and can be a welcome distraction in a difficult situation but remember, they can never really take the place of spending quality time with friends and family. Think about the best time for playing with toys and devices to help everyone enjoy the best of both worlds.