Explore & Learn
Smart toys for young children: ideal for starting the digital life … or nasty spies?
Dolls with which you can communicate via voice commands, cars that can be controlled via smartphone: Especially the youngest children love such toys. They are fun and often even promote children’s language skills and understanding of technology. However, many parents fear that the devices monitor their surroundings using built-in microphones, for example, or transmit personal data unnoticed. With some toys, this concern is not unjustified. That’s why you should pay attention to a few points in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises:
Before the purchase
- Does the device have to communicate with an external server or does it process all the data itself? This is the most secure option, especially if the manufacturers have not protected their servers well enough.
- What interfaces does the toy have, what devices can/must it be connected to? For example, can the microphone and camera be switched off when they are not needed?
- Take a close look: what options does the manufacturer offer to encrypt and secure communication via the device? For example, is there a QR code that must be scanned in order to connect the device with others? That is a good option to avoid strangers logging in.
- If the child is to enjoy the toy for more than just a short time: Does the provider guarantee that there are regular updates for the system used? Otherwise, outdated software can easily become a gateway for Internet fraud.
When installing and using
- It is best to operate the toy within your own four walls and only connect it to a password-protected WLAN, so no one can spy out passwords.
- Are passwords or codes set in advance? Then immediately replace them with own, strong passwords, which are difficult to crack.
- Deactivate all interfaces which don’t need to be accessed. For example, a smart teddy definitely does not need to access the directory of the smartphone to be useful in the nursery.
- Set up access protection to protect all data, for example via a PIN code, so it isn’t plain sailing for hackers.
- Check regularly whether current updates are available for the toy’s software and install them. This is easiest if there is an automatic update function.
- If possible, let the child use the toy offline. Without a network connection, no data can be intercepted.