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October 7, 2020
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Tech Gifts Guide

Tech gadgets are undoubtedly among the most popular gifts landing under Christmas trees around the world this year. With all of these tech gadgets requiring connectivity to apps, platforms and cloud services we must plan to protect young digital users by putting proactive measures in place to keep them safe. If drones, VR headsets, gaming consoles and smart phones/devices are on your youngster’s wish list, it’s important to get on the front foot when it comes to tech gift cyber safety.

PLAN, PROTECT & PREVENT

Plan:

  • Learn what your child knows about this App and how to use it
  • Establish rules and limits with your children around when, where and how this tech gift can be used. Use the Cyber Safety Project, Family Use Agreement Guides Template to help you establish the ground rules, expectations and family tech protocols
  • Understand how the technology works, what personal information will be collected and how it will use your data​​
Protect:
Most ‘smart’ tech based gifts require alignment and connection with a mobile phone or tablet App/Application. All of which will require users to create a User Profile and agree to the company’s terms of service. Every App has its own set of service policies. We understand terms and conditions can be wordy and long and it is natural to want to move on quickly to the fun stuff. When scanning terms and conditions we recommend looking out for the following key elements:

  • What are the legal age limits?
  • Where is your data stored?
  • How will your data be used?
  • Is there a contact number or agency that you can contact directly if things go wrong?
  • Are there links to parental control guides?

 
Prevent:

  • Keep tech use and play to communal areas of your home – with the sound on!
  • Play with the technology and games yourself
  • Connect to the App regularly and monitor how it is being used, what data is being collected or uploaded.
  • Talk to your children – regularly and often – about their online lives. This includes asking specific questions about how they are feeling when using the tech, who they are connecting with and how they feel after accessing the tool
  • Develop a set of exit strategies with your children for if/when they feel things might be going wrong


TIP: Establishing an open and trusting relationship with your children about their digital habits enables you to have greater insight into their online behaviours and opportunities to prevent issues from occurring.  A child or teen is less likely to go to a parent if they believe they will banned from future use of a device, game or platform… So be strategic in how you respond when a child does come to you with a challenge or problem. Planning, prevention and protection are a critical combination for ensuring this trust between guardians and children is developed and maintained.

Safe Profiles:
When creating online profiles we recommend you:

  • Create nicknames & non-identifiable email addresses
  • Use avatars for profile photos
  • Turn off location settings
  • Set profiles to private

POPULAR TECH GADGET GIFTS THIS YEAR:

1. DRONES
Amongst other things, drones can take in some awesome views and share these directly to your smartphone as an image or video. With their long range GPS, WiFi connection and built in cameras, professional (and amateur) photographers are now hitting the skies to take some incredibly creative photos.

Drones are becoming social!
Like most technologies and interest groups, social networking has now become a big player in the drone game. When you connect your Drone to its associated mobile/tablet app, it may also connect you to the SkyPixel. A social networking platform for drone photography enthusiasts. You can upload your flight videos and photos for other SkyPixel members to like and comment. They can become your fan, follow you and send direct messages.

Be wary of location settings!
Like many Drones and associated Apps, The GPS features is a critical element of this technology. With location services turned on, your drone will be able to ‘return to home base’. This is a great feature if you’re a rookie drone pilot and lose track of your drone mid-flight, however this raises alarm bells for the Cyber Safety Project team when it comes to younger users of this technology – especially when connecting their profile to SkyPixel where users of all ages from around the world can connect with them.​​

2. VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) HEADSETS

VR Headsets fall into two categories, Mobile or Tethered. Tethered VR headsets connect to a device such as a PC or gaming console. Whilst, mobile headsets generally require the use of a smart phone with app connectivity to enjoy the immersive nature of Virtual Reality. As soon as you are required to download an App for immersive VR gaming or simulations you will be required to ‘sign up’ to the platform. In this case you must be aware of the games and apps your children are downloading, accessing and what information they may be inputting into this platform to gain access to the game or App. As each game or App has it’s own set of terms, features and capabilities the Plan, Protect and Prevent strategy must be put in place.

PLAN: Ensure your children ask you permission before downloading any app. This will provide you with the time and opportunity to research, play and understand the nature of the game/app, terms of use and the data it may request when signing up. Look out for in-game purchases and ensure you disable this feature.
PROTECT: Monitor the use of these immersive games and check for adult themes and levels of violence.
PREVENT: Set up a safe profile and review the settings to explore what you can control.


3. GAMING CONSOLES

Create Safe Console Accounts:
Stay in control by accessing the game consoles built in parent controls. These enable parents to decide what content their children can access and which functions that they are able to use.

Disable in Game Purchases:
We have all heard of the credit card horror stories of young children accidently (or in some cases, knowingly) wracking up a hefty credit card bill through in-app/game purchases. After all, who doesn’t want some more ‘hay’ in that farming app at the click of a button, or to upgrade your avatar skin to obtain additional status in your game?
Two key recommendations are:

Understand Online Collaboration Features:
Connecting with strangers online doesn’t just happen on Social Media platforms, the gaming world is hyperconnected and highly collaborative. If your children play gaming consoles there is no doubt that they will have access to games that allow them to play, chat and even stream live video with other connected players from all over the world.

  • WATCH your children playing on gaming consoles
  • LISTEN to their conversations and
  • KNOW exactly who is on the other end of the games they are playing

Set game play limits and life balance:
Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation officially recognised gaming addiction as a mental health condition. Similar to gambling mechanisms, popular games such as Fortnite make use of bright colours, sounds and reward systems design to keep players within the game. This method is called operant conditioning, where high level rewards occur randomly encouraging players to ‘just play one more round’ with the chance of a big reward. Not all children will become addicted to gaming, however according to our 2018 Digital Habits Survey, 83% of parents do worry about time spend on gaming and find it challenging to manage screen time and game play. A few things to consider when managing game play and strategies to assist your children with building skills to self-regulate for a healthier balance of daily activity:

  • Take note of extended game play and educate your children as to why this can be harmful to their health
  • Recognise your child’s behaviour patterns and moods before and after game play
  • Discuss balance and help your children plan their time for the day – ensuring it includes a balance of activities
  • Help your child self-regulate through setting timers and empower this independence

4. SMART PHONES

  • Over the past decade, a culture has developed here in Australia, that when a child graduates from primary school and heads off to secondary school a mobile phone is an essential personal item. In more recent times we have seen this trend filter down to children of even younger age groups.

Mobile devices including Smart Phones and tablets are the portal to Social Networking and web browsing whereby young children have access to the world in their pocket. If a mobile phone or connected tablet is on this years present list here are some important steps you’ll need to take to get it right from the start.

Disable Device Location Settings:

Discuss Posting Protocols:

  • Digital reputations, digital perceptions and permanency of posting
  • Never post or send photos where your location is compromised
  • Never post or send photos where your body or personal space is visible to others
  • Never post a comment or send a private message that you wouldn’t want others to see
  • Never post selfies in your school, sport or hobby uniforms
  • Never tag yourself in locations
  • Always post photos of activities, trips or events after the event
  • Ask friends and family permission before posting and tagging them

Monitor:

  • Who is following or friending your children
  • Who your children are following on social platforms (who is influencing them)
  • Screen/scroll time and take note of their daily activity
  • Recognise your child’s behaviour patterns and moods before and after use of social media
  • Discuss balance and help your children plan their time for the day – ensuring it includes a balance of activities

Access Parental Controls: Here at the Cyber Safety Project we are all for educating young people with safe practices and understanding the importance of safety precautions. There are however some great technologies available to parents to provide peace of mind when it comes to device use and monitoring what they children are exposed to. You may wish to explore software tools such as Family Zone or the new inbuild Family Monitoring features on the latest iOS update (for iPhone).


5. SMART TOYS

 

 

Artificial intelligence is absolutely everywhere! Kitchen appliances, smart TVs, smartphones, in our cars… it was only a matter of time before AI was integrated into children’s toys. The growth in the market of toys with integrated artificial intelligent has resulted in these tools becoming more affordable and hitting Christmas stockings all over the country.

​A smart toy is a toy that has a degree of artificial intelligence within it. These toys have the ability to learn and adjust the way it interacts with it’s user. Using pre-programmed patterns (algorithms) these toys react to the user’s actions and  The levels of intelligences within these smart toys does vary greatly however AI features include voice recognition, smartphone apps and touch sensors that allow the user and the toys to interact.

One of the toys that is gaining popularity along with security, ethical and privacy concerns is Hello Barbie.  Talking toys are not new, however Barbie now listens and responds to what the user says. The use of the inbuilt a microphone, sophisticated electronics and Wi-Fi connection will compute this information and make decisions about how it will respond to it’s user, simulating a more realistic conversation. Hello Barbie uses similar technology to Siri, Cortana, Alexa other personal digital assistants. This ability to respond to a child’s conversation through artificial intelligence has raised privacy and ethical concerns.

With the ability for “Hello Barbie” to uniquely interact with users and even have and hold conversations, play games, share stories, and tell jokes “Hello Barbie” is being sold as a “real” friend to children. This raised the question about how this may influence a young person’s social behaviour. Beyond the social implications of the doll, the capabilities of the recording technology also raises privacy issues. Smart toys also often have location-tracking features, a feature that can be compromised when connected to public WiFi networks could give then give you child’s whereabouts to people who should not have that information.

Many of the other smart toys on the market today, such as the popular Hot Wheels Brand also have accompanying software applications. These applications provide additional features to make the toy more fun or interactive. Some toys may not work without these apps and WiFi enabled which opens up opportunities for data to be collected about a user’s game play. Be sure to thoroughly review an Apps Terms & Conditions as well as consider how your child’s information is being collected if required to create a users account or profile alongside the use of this technology.

So, you’re considering putting a AI gift under the tree this year?
PLAN:

  • Reading the privacy policy and terms of use to find out if the manufacture of the smart toy collects and stores user data. If so, how is that information store, who has access to it and how is this shared with third party providers?
  • Play with the toy yourself before allowing your child to explore it’s features. If it’s AI is reactive, you may wish to test out some conversations or scenarios to see how it responds, the topics it raised or bias perspectives it may provide.

PROTECT:

  • Turn off the toy when not in use, especially if it has microphones or cameras, so it doesn’t unintentionally pick up sound or video.
  • Minimise the sharing of personal information. This applies when setting up a user account associated with a smart toy. Avoid sharing details like birthdays or a child’s personal preferences.

 PREVENT:

  • Review the settings within the application that may be associated with the smart toy itself. Only connect and use toys in environments with trusted and secured Wi-Fi internet access. This means your secure home network may be appropriate however you might limit the use when it requires free/public network at a cafe (for example).
  • Install any available software updates or security patches. You should be able to find this information from the toy maker’s website.

 

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