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Consumer Reports: Your child's privacy with connected toys

Posted at 6:20 AM, May 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-20 11:43:37-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Meylin Wong worries about the privacy risks posed by the connected toys her kids play with.

“It is scary, yes. Because I have little kids," says Wong. "I know my five-year-old now knows how to spell her name, her last name, where she lives and all this stuff.”

While digital toys can be fun and educational, they introduce some privacy and security risks not found in old fashioned board games.

“Parents should be aware that connected toys are just like any other kind of Internet of Thing," says Consumer Reports Tech Editor, Bree Fowler. "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.”

They also have the ability to be hacked. But Consumer Reports offers some important perspective.

“Information can’t be stolen and can’t be shared if you don’t hand it over in the first place," says Fowler.

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, or address or age but you have to remember that hackers can use this information," says Fowler. "So, there’s nothing wrong with giving a fake birthday or using a child’s nickname instead of their real name.”

CR says parents should also set strong passwords on connected toys using a string of random words. Better yet? 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 and you need to make sure everything is locked down," says Fowler.

Meylin offers another option:

“Try to go like old fashioned. Games, books, puzzles," says Wong.

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