Technology, toys and the internet

Keep your children safe with our tips on technology, toys and the internet.

It’s important to be aware of technology, toys and internet safety. That’s because over the next few years, millions of objects will be connected to the internet. You might have already bought an internet-connected gift for your child, so it’s important to be aware of the potential risks.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things, sometimes called the IoT, refers to everyday objects that connect to the internet. Internet of Things devices can be activated using voice commands and can be controlled remotely using a smartphone app. Lots of these devices are also Bluetooth-enabled, meaning they are able to connect to nearby devices, without having to connect to the internet.

Internet of Things examples include:

    • smart speakers, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo
    • wearables, such as Fitbit and Apple Watch
    • smart meters measuring household energy consumption.

What is the Internet of Toys?

Along with the devices above, many toys now connect to the internet. This is sometimes referred to as the Internet of Toys. These products include:

    • toys with voice and/or image recognition, such as Hello Barbie™ and Furby Connect
    • app-enabled robots, drones and other mechanical toys, such as Dash and Dot.

What are the risks of internet-connected devices?

Because IoT devices can feel unobtrusive in the home, you may not realise they pose the same security risks as more conventional devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This means you could be more relaxed about your security when using them. In reality, these devices collect personal data, often both audio and visual. These devices might also be vulnerable to hacking, as there are no safeguards or security standards for internet-connected objects.

8 tips for keeping your family safe when using internet-connected devices

Check the guidance provided by manufacturers. Product information often comes with new devices or can be found online. This will give you some idea as to how the device collects and shares data.

Many Internet of Things devices require downloading an app. You should check the privacy settings and permissions of any apps you download, as well as the product itself.

Buying a recongised brand is likely to offer greater security than cheaper options, although there have been data breaches with some of the most popular IoT toys. Reading reviews online will help you understand the digital safety of a product.

Many products have parental controls or child-safe modes as standard. These limit search abilities and access to paid-for services. We recommend using these for children under 13. If you’re giving a device as a Christmas gift, make sure you enable these features before the 25 December.

It’s important that your internet router is secure. Most internet service providers have security features, so you may want to consider switching these to safe mode. If the device has Bluetooth, set it to ‘undiscoverable’, otherwise you may unintentionally share data or allow hackers to take control of the device.

Make sure all passwords are changed from their defaults. The use of strong, unique passwords is essential to protecting you and your family online.

With any internet-connected device, whether a smartphone or toy, it’s important to speak to your child about staying safe online. Read our guidance on how to start a conversation with your child about staying safe online

If you have any worries or concerns, call our helpline on 080 88005002 or visit an O2 Guru in any O2 store.