Holidays, Toys and Tech: A checklist for parents and carers

Christmas holidays are almost here and connected toys are more enticing than ever.  Before purchasing everything on your family wish list, you may want to thoughtfully consider the toys and tech that will create the right balance in your home.

The Internet of Things and Toys is still relatively new, but the results are everywhere: intelligent heaters that warm up your home before you arrive, fitness trackers that beep when you've achieved your activity goal for the day, connected toys that can entertain your children for hours, Wi-Fi diapers and dummies, cribs with embedded iPad, wearable tech and more.

Connected toys and tech can be very exciting, but what happens when your child’s toys talk back to your child? Or when you realize that the toy police car is fitted out with a webcam? Or when your child’s data (conversations, personal information, etc.) is stored in the cloud?

The tech industry is steadily creating mind-boggling, innovate and entertaining devices, but notions of security and privacy may not always be foremost on their minds.  As parents and carers, we can take a step back and engage in critical thinking and thoughtful consideration before making the purchase.

Critical thinking and Thoughtful Consideration 

  • Do I need this device?
  • Does my family need this device?
  • Have I read the terms and conditions for use?
  • Have I read the reviews to see if it suitable for my family?
  • What are the privacy considerations?
  • How will my child’s data be stored, used or marketed?
  • How can I control the microphone and webcam?
  • How can I control the Wi-Fi settings?
  • Is the toy good for my child’s development?
  • Is the toy age-appropriate for my child, given what I know about their maturity?
  • How will younger siblings interact with this toy or device?
  • Can I explain to my children how to use it, how not to use it and more importantly, what to do if something happens?
Pre-Purchase Tech Gift Reading List: Connected toys can offer many benefits through interactive play, entertainment and education, however parents and carers should be aware of any potential privacy and security risks.

How to Give a Tech Gift

You have completed your research and you have decided on the perfect age-appropriate tech toy that has maximum privacy settings.  Now what?  How do you hand over that fabulous gift complete with your expectations and advice on responsible use? 

  • Do you have a family media agreement in place outlining how you and your family will enjoy technology?  Here are a few examples of agreements and guidance that you can tailor for your own family.  Be flexible and don’t worry about getting it right, but do get an agreement in place.
  • If the gift is for another child, do make sure that the parents of the child are in agreement for the gift.
  • Even if you have never used a family media agreement in the past, if the gift is an upgrade, now may be a great moment to start.  For example, if you are offering your teenager a newer gaming console, smartphone or drone, then you can also create an agreement for that device. 

Post-Purchase Tech Reading List

Post purchase advice: Congratulations! You did it.  You did your research and you found and purchased the perfect age-appropriate gift.  You have set your privacy settings to maximum, you have created a strong password, you have turned off geo-location and your family is ready to play. 

Do remember to check the toy and device settings after every update and to keep the conversation going with your child on how they are using the tech. 
Enjoy your tech gifts and toys safely and responsibly and don't forget that non-tech toys make fantastic holiday gifts too.

Happy Holidays from South West Grid for Learning

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