It’s the most wonderful time of the year - for holiday shopping and getting the best deals on the latest tech gadgets and gear. According to the 2020 U.S. Retail Holiday Trends Guide, the holiday shopping season will begin earlier this year. Brick-and-mortar sales will be down due to COVID and online retail sales will experience unprecedented growth.
Two of the biggest shopping days of the season - Black Friday and Cyber Monday - are just around the corner. Moms and dads will be searching for the hottest items on those letters kids send to Ole St Nick and their family's wish lists. Gone are the days when kids asked for barbie dolls, stuffed animals, toy trucks, and bicycles. Phones, tablets, game consoles, and interactive toys have replaced the traditional items that used to entertain young minds. Instead of elves hammering away at wooden cars, modern-day toy makers are integrating technology into their products to appeal to today’s tech-savvy kids with augmented reality, Bluetooth capabilities, and internet connectivity.
A University of Iowa study found that 90 percent of kids under the age of two had a moderate ability to use a tablet. While tablets and other interactive, connected devices can help kids learn, there are also heightened privacy risk factors to consider with any device that connects to the internet - especially those designed to appeal to kids. Any device or toy that contains cameras or microphones, has GPS, connects to the internet, or requests and stores data can potentially expose your kids or their information to trackers and hackers.
It’s a parent’s job to protect their kids - online and off. Even the founders of big tech take that job seriously. Apple founder Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use the iPad or any product their dad invented. In a 2104 article published by The New York Times, Jobs said "We limit how much technology our kids use at home." Other tech-savvy families that were interviewed for the Times piece also reported wanting to protect their children from the dangers of technology.
In 2017, Microsoft founder Bill Gates told a British newspaper that he didn’t give his kids cell phones until they were 14, saying “smartphones and related devices were useful for homework and staying in touch with friends, but had the potential for excess.”
Rich Stokes, CEO/Founder of Winston and a parent, left his former position in advertising after realizing it ceased to be about consumers and became more about finding novel ways to extract their personal data from computers, phones, and smart homes - and toys. He started Winston Privacy because he didn’t want Big Tech following your kids around, profiling them, pushing their buttons from cradle to grave...and collecting their personal data.
“I didn’t want my kids - or anyone else’s - growing up in a surveillance state.” ~ Richard Stokes
Read more about what drove Rich away from the advertising industry and into the data privacy rabbit hole here.
Following are some tips you can take to protect your kids from the risks of data exposure when using IoT devices so they can have a merry but safe holiday season:
In addition to scrambling your IP address, blocking ads and tracking filters on all the devices connected to your home network, Winston has two different parental control filters: Winston Parental Control and JRummy Parental Control. Both of these filters block access to adult and gambling sites to include ads they may post across the internet. These filters can be activated by going to Filters in the dashboard, scroll to the bottom and click on Advanced Filters to locate the Parental Control Filters and check the boxes next to them.
Even if you follow all of the above tips, limiting use of these devices and parental supervision are the most effective measures you can take to keep your child safe when using any connected devices.