How to protect your child's data when using high-tech smart toys

Furby, a cute cuddly toy, could be opening the door to a stranger in your home. A couple of years ago the Furby Connect turned out to be a dangerous companion. The toy works with an app, so once a child connects to Wi-Fi, the Furby could be hacked.

“If you're using these toys on an unsecured Wi-Fi, they can be hacked in to,” said Carmen Balber from Consumer Watchdog.  

Even Barbie got hacked. Mattel started using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in the famous dolls and her voice activated dream house, and the toy giant had to roll out fixes. 

It's not just hackers you need to watch out for. The toy companies themselves can use your child's information, too.

“There are no laws prohibiting companies from using this information in ways you would never expect,” said Balber. 

So what do you do, parents, to protect your kids? 

• You don't have to enter accurate data. There's nothing wrong with giving a fake birthday or using a child's nickname instead of his or her real name. Any company that is collecting that information to your child's name and age might be hacked. 

• Read the fine print. “Parents should look out for the most protective policies that say we only collect this information to provide interaction with your child's doll. They can look for protections that allow you to delete your child's information,” said Balber. 

• Set strong passwords on connected toys using a string of random words or use a password manager.

•  Check the sharing policies of the company. “They need to make sure that the company has adequate safeguards that it will not share recordings it’s made of your child with a third party aggregator.” 

•  Talk to your kids at a young age about what to share online and what to keep private.

Then there's this option: buy old-fashioned games, books and puzzles, and other toys that are not connected to the internet.