Whether it’s playing with the latest robotic toy or talking to a smart speaker, more children are engaging with devices that connect to the internet than ever before. This has steadily been increasing over the past few years, with some industry experts predicting that there will be over 26 billion connected devices in our homes worldwide by 2020. Connected devices and toys are present in most households, and redefine how many of us go about our daily lives and how children interact and play. As these devices are more widely used by families and children, it’s important for parents and carers to find the balance between providing ways for their children to learn and have fun and minimise the risks associated with the Internet of Things.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things, often referred to as IoT, describes everyday objects that connect to the internet. These connected devices can be activated by using voice commands, or controlled remotely by downloading and using an app or via a Bluetooth connection. Examples of the Internet of Things include: smart speakers, smart meters (for home electricity and heating) and wearables such as fitness trackers.
What is the Internet of Toys?
The Internet of Toys describes toys that connect to the internet. Similar to the Internet of Things, these toys can be controlled using a smartphone app, voice commands or using a Bluetooth connection. Connected toys are different from other toys because they collect, use, and share data via the internet. Examples of the Internet of Toys include: connected action figures and dolls, robotic toys such as drones and learning development toys that aim to teach children a new skill or impart knowledge.
What are the risks associated with connected devices and toys?
Although connected devices and toys are providing children with more opportunities for learning and interactive play, there are risks associated with the Internet of Things. For example:
- Concerns have been raised about whether these devices are collecting too much personal information from children, as well as how that information may be used or shared.
- Some children (either accidentally or on purpose) are able to search for and access age-inappropriate content online via a connected device such as a smart speaker.
- Children may make ‘in-app purchases’ and spend money, which is often taken from their parents’ or carers’ bank account without their knowledge or consent.
- Some of these devices may be more vulnerable to hacking and monitoring, as there are currently no security standards in place for connected devices.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimise these risks.