Toy report card for internet safety

Researchers from James Cook University have developed a rating system to help parents keep their children safe around internet-connected toys.

Ms Sonal Allana was concerned by the lack of consumer awareness around the privacy and security of toys with internet connectivity.

Toys with internet connectivity, sometimes called the Internet of Toys, are things such as dolls, reading pens, drones, and tablets, that have the capability of connecting to the internet.

“Many parents may not realise that their child’s toy could expose their personal information, or leave them vulnerable to hacking,” Ms Allana said. “Children’s personal information may become available to unwanted people, such as their name, address, location, and even heartbeat.

“A toy could also be hacked and controlled by malicious actors who expose the child to inappropriate content or give them instructions to leave the house and meet a stranger.”

Ms Allana and her team developed a concept called ChildShield as a scoring system for toys with internet connectivity.

“It scores both privacy and security and gives a grade from A to D,” she said.

“There are existing labels for safety in the traditional sense, such as the label CE to ensure quality, and another to mark the toy as unsafe for children under 3 years old, but not for internet safety – and we’d like to see one.”

Ms Allana hopes to one day see their concept implemented by toy companies and regulatory bodies.

“I would like cooperate with toy manufacturers so they can refer to ChildShied during their design phase,” she said. “Then, I’d like to see regulatory bodies label toys accordingly so we can ensure parents are fully informed and safer toys end up on the market.”

Paper: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2020.101477

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