Kid playing on tablet

Every year, consumers are cautioned to be extra careful when selecting toys on their holiday shopping list. There was a time when shoppers mostly worried about broken, damaged or otherwise physically unsafe toys. Perhaps there was even some concern about age-appropriateness or difficult assembly instructions. However, with more kids now using a wide array of technology-based presents, there are safety and privacy considerations to keep in mind while purchasing toys on your holiday shopping list for your nieces, nephews and children.

Over the past few years, various children’s gifts have later revealed privacy pitfalls that did not sit well with security experts, parents or child safety advocates. Everything from the potential for hacking and data breaches to establishing accounts using the children’s identifying information has become a red flag.

One very popular piece of kids’ tech, for example, has the possibility of being a parent’s worst nightmare. A smartwatch that is supposed to allow parents to pair the device to their own phones in order to keep up with their children sounds like a good idea on paper. However, the backend API for both the smartwatch and the mobile app that the parents downloaded to their smartphones turned out to be a wide-open space where anyone could access the children’s devices. Not only could someone physically locate the kids via their watches’ GPS, they could also initiate voice calls with the children. This was a perfect example of purchasing the wrong toys on your holiday shopping list.

As if that was not frightening enough, they could also change the parents’ passwords without having to go through their email accounts, lock the parents out of the account and then continue talking to the children. Someone could locate a nearby child, start up a conversation, prevent the parents from ever knowing about it and then tell the child where to meet them.

When shopping for toys on your holiday shopping list, it is important to know how any kind of children’s technology works before you buy it. Do you need to connect it to the internet for it to work, or just for it to download content? Does it require a parents’ account and children’s information as users? Is the child supposed to maintain the account? Does it incorporate password protection and two-factor authentication, or can anyone pick it up and look through its contents?

If you have the option to leave the internet connection and location settings turned off while in use, that may be safer. Of course, some items need both of those things in order to work properly. Be careful about giving a gift if the recipient is not ready for the responsibility of internet connectivity. Make sure you are communicating frequently about privacy and safety issues before purchasing any kids’ technology.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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