Whether it’s a LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile or Marbotic Smart letters and numbers that help your child learn the basics or Maths and English, if you’re planning to buy a smart toy for your child this Christmas there are a few things to consider before you buy.
Parven Kaur, founder of Kids N Clicks - a web resource that “helps parents and children thrive in a digital world” - shares her top tips to consider.
With the global sales of smart toys expected to grow from 3.87 billion to 5.41 billion by 2024, it’s safe to say that smart toys are here to stay.
Some are strictly for entertainment purposes while others have an educational element as well and can be a great tool for teaching children various skills through their interactive features.
All smart toys have a common feature, though – they are all connected to the internet. This is usually beneficial but in recent times there have been instances of unintended consequences.
Thinking about your child’s digital data
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England recently published a report warning parents that information about their children is being collected on a large scale. Not only are social media companies building profiles of children as they grow, but toy companies are also collecting their personal information and preferences.
The report describes how this vast amount of information could impact a child’s future prospects such as admission to university, and health benefits.
Making the most of smart toys safely
In order to fully reap the benefits of smart toys whilst keeping children safe, it is important to consider the different aspects of the toys. Below are some of our suggestions:
Four things to consider when buying a smart toy
If you are planning to buy a smart toy that can connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or a mobile app, here are a couple of things to think about to keep children safe.
1. How does the toy interact with your child and other devices?
Make sure you understand what key things your child can do with the toy and if it can connect to any other devices, for example, can it send messages to a phone or connect to a smart TV?
Questions to ask
- Is there a chat function that allows children to communicate with others?
- Are there apps that can be used with the toy which may contain ads and in-app purchases?
- Does the toy require information about your child’s location?
- Where is the interactive data stored and processed?
- Are there any add-ons to purchase to get the best experience?
- Is there a digital version of the toy that does the same thing which would save on cost?