Connected toys can be fun, risky

CR suggests ways for parents to keep child's personal info away from hackers

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - As more toys connect to the internet, there are more chances for your child’s data to be hacked, but there are some things parents can do to reduce the privacy risks linked to smart toys.

Last year, it happened to millions of kids playing with Vtech electronic toys. Recently, regulators in Europe recalled a children’s smart watch because it posed a serious risk of being hacked.  

“Parents should be aware that connected toys are just like any other kind of internet of things device. They’re connected to your router, which goes to the internet. And they have the ability to collect information and send it back and forth,” said Bree Fowler, tech editor for Consumer Reports.

The toys can also be hacked, but your information can’t be stolen and shared if you don’t hand it over in the first place.

So what can parents do to keep their kids’ personal data safe? First, they can lie.

“Toys will often ask for things like your child’s name, address, or age, but you have to remember that hackers can use this information. So there’s nothing wrong with giving a fake birthday or using a child’s nickname instead of his or her real name,” Fowler said.

Consumer Reports said parents should also set strong passwords on connected toys using a string of random words or use a password manager.

But why is it so important to have a strong password on a kid’s toy?

“Basically, these items can be used as a gateway into your computer network, so you need to make sure everything is locked down,” Fowler said.

Consumer Reports also suggests talking to your kids at a young age about what to share online and what to keep private.

Another option: Buy old-fashioned games, books and puzzles.

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