What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Do we know that our homes have become more digitally connected? Most of the families all around the world are buying internet-enabled devices such as smart speakers, toys that connect to the internet and even Bluetooth enabled toothbrushes. In this article, we will explain what is meant by the ‘Internet of Things’ and how to use these devices safely with your child.

Children are using more and more internet connected devices whether it is while playing with robotic toys or talking to smart speakers, now such daily uses tools are connected to internet. The use of internet connected devices have been exponentially increased in recent past. According to industry experts there will be over 20 billion connected devices in our homes worldwide by the end of 2020.

The internet connected devices are changing our lifestyle. These devices are providing ease in daily life, by using IoT devices it becomes very easy to get lots of day to day work done even without touching the devices. Such devices are connected to internal home wifi or internet so these devices can communicate with any devices connected to that home network. Due to network enabled connection, such devices have similar kind of risk which any computer or any mobile devices can have. It is important for parents to find the balance between providing ways for their children to learn and have fun and minimise the risks associated with  the Internet of Things.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things, often referred to as IoT, are everyday objects that connect to the internet.

These connected devices can be activated using voice commands, or controlled by using an app or via a Bluetooth connection. Examples of the Internet of Things include:

  • Smart speakers,
  • smart meters (for home electricity and heating),
  • and wearables such as fitness trackers
  • Robotic toys such as drones


What are the risks associated with the Internet of Things?

The connected devices and toys provides opportunities to children and adults to learn many new things and allow interactive games and play with them but there are many risks associated with the Internet of Things devices. For example:

  • These devices are collecting too much personal information.
  • There is limited control on stopping children to search age-inappropriate materials
  • Children may make ‘in-app purchases’ and spend money, which is often taken from their parents’ bank account without their knowledge or consent
  • Some of these devices may be more vulnerable to hacking and following (tracking), as there are currently very less security controls in place for connected devices


How can I make my connected home more secure?

By following some steps, you can make your connected devices home and your child safe:

  1. Do your research: Most important thing you need to do to research different products online and read reviews. There are many ways to find out more about a product including age restrictions and credibility, as well as contacting directly from other parents.
  2. Read the manual: Read the manual provided by the manufacturers. Information should be given about the privacy of the device, how it connects to the internet, and information about any app which may need to be downloaded in order to use the device.
  3. Set up parental controls: Make use of the parental controls available on your home broadband and any internet enabled device in  your home.
  4. Use safe search: Enable the ‘Safe Search’ function on your connected device and web search engines. This will allow you to limit the material your child can see when online and keep reviewing the setting.
  5. Change the default password: When you buy a connected device or toy, must change the default password. Use a strong password that cannot easily be guessed and do not share this with others.
  6. Set your Bluetooth to ‘undiscoverable’: Many connected devices are Bluetooth enabled. This means they are able to connect to nearby devices without having to connect to the internet. If the device has Bluetooth, set this to ‘undiscoverable’ so your child doesn’t share data or pair with an unknown device.
  7. Review and/or delete audio files: Some connected devices or toys work by listening to voice commands, so these devices usually record and keep these audio files to work properly. Refer to the manual and find out how to review and/or delete audio files. If there’s a microphone on with connected device, you can turn on the ‘mute’ button. This will stop the device from recording and storing audio files.
  8. Educate your child: Educate your child to follow all good security practices which they follow while playing online games and using internet.

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