You may well have all heard the term ‘Internet of Things’, this is really just referring to all the devices that can be connected to the internet. As adults, we are becoming familiar with the ability to control heating at home with our mobile phone when we are out or to be able to look at live images from things like baby monitors and security cameras from almost anywhere.
However, this connectivity is creeping into the area of childrens toys with some concerning issues. Take for example the two on the market My Friend Cayla and i-Que. These raise serious questions when it comes to safeguarding basic consumer rights, security, and privacy. To understand the issues, take a couple of minutes to watch this video to see what we mean;
So what are the issues?
First, there is a lack of security as almost anyone with a mobile phone could control the toy and allow them to listen and talk to the toy without having physical access.
Anything the child tells the doll is transferred to a US-based company, who specialise in speech recognition technologies. The company reserves the right to share this information with other third parties, and to use speech data for a wide variety of purposes. This raises concerns around Principle 8 of the Data Protection Act (Information must not be transferred outside the EU without appropriate security measures) but also that without realising the parents are allowing their child’s information and anything else transmitted through the toys to be openly shared by the organisation.
Some of the toys have embedded, pre-programmed phrases, where they endorse different commercial products so making children susceptible to marketing.
As schools investigate using toys like these to possibly encourage speaking and listening and parents consider buying them for their children we need to be aware of the potential issues that can come with connecting them to the Internet and these toys may not always be what they first appear.