Jeremy Johnson new mug

Jeremy Johnson

Did the holidays leave your house with gadgets galore? From tablets to baby dolls, smart toys are becoming more popular every year. Teddy bears once filled with stuffing are now hard-wired with smart technology. If your child is now a proud owner of an internet-connected toy, keep in mind this fun device could put your family at risk if proper care is not taken when using these devices.

The Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit is finding toys that may collect personal information (e.g. name, email address) from children. Unfortunately, this may be done without parents knowing it’s happening. These connected toys aren’t inherently bad; in fact, they can be highly educational and fun as long as parents are well-informed and choose wisely. But if you choose the wrong toy, there can be consequences.

Don’t let your children’s smart toys outsmart you; consider these tips:

Know the law: The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is designed to protect children’s personal information. Toy companies must post privacy policies that describe how personal information is collected from children and how it is handled.

Read the privacy policy: You should be able to find the privacy policy online, either in the app store or on the toy’s website. Look for the following: a list of who is collecting personal information, what information the device collects and how it’s used, how the information is stored, who has access to the data, and your rights as a parent.

Parental rights: Privacy policies must give parents the chance to review their child’s information, delete it and give them a chance to refuse to allow further collection. Parents also have the right to agree to collection and use of their child’s information, but still not allow disclosure to third parties.

Use a secure connection: Only connect toys over secure, password-protected Wi-Fi or VPN (Virtual Private Network). Avoid using public connections, which may easily allow unwanted access to toys if there are security flaws.

Check please: Don’t assume privacy settings are set by default; check the parental controls and don’t forget to password-protect your settings. Be aware of parental controls and safety measures the toy has in place like limiting who your child can communicate with.

Stay up to date: Find out if the company will contact you if there are any security breaches or software updates to protect a toy’s security. Always install software updates and security patches in a timely manner.

Major turnoff: Turn off all connected devices when not in use to ensure personal information is not inadvertently collected.

If you’re worried about kids’ online interactions, use programs and devices built-in features to turn off internet connectivity, disable digital purchases and restrict interactions to pre-approved friend lists. To learn more about protecting you and your family’s information, go to bbb.org.

Jeremy Johnson is the Eastern Idaho Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific. Contact the BBB at 208-342-4649 or email to info@thebbb.org.