What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Our daily lives have become more connected than ever before. Internet-enabled devices can be found everywhere, from smart speakers to Bluetooth toothbrushes. Find out more about how to support your family to be safer using the Internet of Things...

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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 downloading and using an app or via a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. Examples of the Internet of Things include:

  • • Smart speakers,
  • • Smart meters (for home electricity and heating),
  • • and wearables such as smart watches or fitness trackers.

What is the Internet of Toys?

The Internet of Toys are toys that connect to the internet. Similar to the Internet of Things, these toys can be controlled using a smartphone app, voice commands or using a Bluetooth connection.

Connected toys are different from other toys because they collect, use, and share data via the internet. This data might range from personal details like user age or location, to microphones and cameras recording what users see and hear. 

Examples of the Internet of Toys include:

  • • Connected action figures and dolls,
  • • Bluetooth-enabled toys or tablets;
  • • Robotic toys such as drones,
  • • and learning development toys that aim to educate children. 

What are the risks associated with the Internet of Things?

Although connected devices and toys provide children with opportunities for learning and interactive play, there are some associated risks. 

  • • Concerns have been raised about whether these devices are collecting too much personal information from children.
  • • Some children (either accidentally or on purpose) are able to search for and access age-inappropriate material via a connected device such as a smart speaker.
  • • 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 monitoring, as there are currently no security standards in place for connected devices.

Luckily, there are things you can do to minimise these risks.

How can I make my connected home more secure? 

There are things you can do to help make your connected home safer for your child:

1. Do your research: Research different products online and read reviews. This is a great way to find out more about a product including age restrictions and credibility, as well as hearing directly from other parents. Product manuals will also give you information about the privacy of the device and its use. 

2. Set up parental controls: Make use of the parental controls available on your home broadband and any internet enabled device in your home.Enable the 'SafeSearch' function on your connected device and search engines to limit the material your child can access online. 

3. Update your privacy settings: When you buy a connected device or toy, change the default password. Use a strong password that cannot easily be guessed and do not share this with others. Set your Bluetooth-enabled devices to 'undiscoverable' so your child doesn’t share data or pair with an unknown device.

4. Review and/or delete the data saved on devices: Some connected devices or toys work by listening to your child’s 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 your child’s connected device, you can turn on the ‘mute’ button. This will stop the device from recording and storing audio files. 

5. Talk to your child: Include connected devices in your online safety conversations, reinforcing the message that if your child sees or hears anything that makes them feel worried,  they can speak to you or another adult they trust. Read further information on starting the conversation about online safety.

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For guidance on setting up parental controls or reviewing the privacy settings of a connected device or toy, you can find further information on the NSPCC's online safety hub