Being a parent is hard. Parents have too many things to worry about when it comes to their kids, ranging from childcare and schooling to eating healthy and screen time.
So one would have to wonder why we would add unneeded worries into our busy day-to-day lives. The problem with that last sentence is that parents look for convenience. Anything that can save time or add convenience is seen as a plus. Services like Netflix, Amazon subscription delivery, or dining delivery quickly come to mind.
However, apps are just the tip of the iceberg. We live in the growing Internet of Things world, so there are also smart devices that can help out parents, like baby monitors, kid tablets, and Barbie dolls that can all help in watching or entertaining the rugrats. Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of life, parents think of how to make things easier and think “do my kids like this?,” rather than “is this secure?” This is where convenience can come back to bite us in the backside.
You see, I hate when I see stories about hacked baby monitors appear on the web. It seems like every 3-6 months some jerk decides to mess with a kid and his family. This isn’t hacking for good or even for profit; it’s just wrong. While the story is quite sickening for any human, and one we can quickly sympathize with, it is also a good reminder that we are all responsible for whatever devices we have connecting to the IoT. We also need to be extra vigilant when it comes to ANYTHING relating to our children that is added to the Web.
Aside from the really creepy things that happened with the camera in the article mentioned above, there are some really bad things that can happen when someone hacks into a device meant for your kid and happens to be connected to the IoT. These include identity theft, stalking, and blackmail. With that said we urge you to add some cyber-security to your decision making. Look, this is not only for your good, but also for the good of little Timmy and Jenny.
Do you need to connect to the Web?
I grew up for the most part without the Internet. I used this thing called imagination. I am sure you have heard of it. The question I often ask myself is: do my kids need this item? And do they need to be online? More times than not, I really cannot justify the reasoning for a toy to be connected to my phone, tablet, or the web. If you feel otherwise or if the toy is essential, please read through the access rights and what information is vital for the toymaker to collect on you or your children. In all honesty, does your child’s GPS coordinates or school need to be shared?
Is your home network secure?
Kids today will never grow up like I did. The Internet is ubiquitous and essential for daily life. So whether we like it or not, the connectivity within our homes will continue to grow. You see commercials touting home security and Wi-Fi enabled cameras, and as the Internet of Things continues to grow, so will the companies wanting to sell these devices.
It’s logical, we all want to be secure and feel safe within our domiciles. Unfortunately, this same sense or need for security is often overlooked when it comes to securing all of the devices that contain data that can be more valuable to cyber-criminals than that 60 inch TV or piece of sports memorabilia on your mantle. At the minimum, you should password protect your wireless router and also be running some type of anti-virus on your devices.
Think about your kids
It’s our job to set our children up for successful lives. So we should treat their privacy like we would their safety. Unlike an adult who gets their identity stolen, it might be years (or even a decade) before it is realized, as they won’t run a credit check in their early years. Hell, buying them stuff is your job.
So with that in mind, you really need to be careful as to what data you share with companies. Should a toy or account need vital information, consider these three tips:
1. Share as little as possible. There is no law saying you need to give vital data to toymaker or even doctors.
2. Make up fake data. If you don’t want your kid to become profiled by brands, make up birthdays, sex, likes or whatever other rubbish the brand is asking for. Marketers get paid to market, no need for you to make it easier on them.
3. Use your info. There is no steadfast rule that a user account needs to be tied to your kid. I am pretty sure there are at least three accounts for my children that are tied to my data.
I’m a parent and know that you have a lot on your plate. Deep breaths — You can do this. If you need positive reinforcement or encouragement, bookmark the video below.