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Advice for Giving Tech Gifts - Digital Parenting

Tech Tips for Parents: Advice for Giving Tech Gifts

Jan 12, 2023

More and more digital devices are creeping into our everyday lives–and the lives of our little ones are no exception either. There’s the obvious lure of devices that we all enjoy (such as smartphones and tablets) but the tech industry is also steadily cranking out mind-boggling devices that appeal to a younger audience too.

Whilst this tech might capture the imagination of your child, it’s important to be skeptical about whether the notions of security and privacy are a key concern of the tech industries when creating these devices. 

What happens when your child's toys can talk back to them, or if that police car toy is fitted with a webcam? It's up to you as a Digital Parent to roll up your sleeves and dive into the subject matter—preferably before handing over that cool toy to your kid.

                                      

Digital Parent Checklist

There’s lots to consider when it comes to deciding whether a tech gift is appropriate for you and your family. This article will provide you with some pointers for what to consider with each specific type of device. But before we get into that, here’s my checklist of the sorts of questions you should be asking yourself before committing to a tech purchase for your child.

  • Is the gift age appropriate?
  • Can you turn off geolocation and turn on privacy settings?
  • Do you understand the parental controls?
  • Do you need a ‘family media agreement—a plan for how your family will deal with digital devices?
  • Will the gift contribute to the amount of screentime your child is having on a daily basis?
  • Will you or your child need to create a user account to use the gift?
  • What data and personal info will the gift hold onto?

 

Smart Toys

Smart toys can include educational aids such as tablets, robotic toys, or more traditional toys with smart tech integrations (such as dolls, soft toys, and so on).

These toys may be connected to the internet (or some form of software) and are typically controlled from a device such as a smartphone or tablet.

 

Safety pointers

  • Smart toys may have cameras and microphones that can record audios and visuals of your child.
  • User accounts may collect personal data about your child (such as their age, gender, and even location).
  • Anything connected to the internet (even if it’s via another device that is internet-enabled) may be susceptible to hacking or a data breach.
  • Connectivity capabilities (such as chat functions, Bluetooth, etc.) may allow other toy owners to connect with your child.
  • May contribute towards the amount of screentime your child is having.

 

Gaming Consoles and Devices

Gaming can be a source of entertainment, collaboration, and interaction for kids. It’s progressed beyond video games and can now be accessed via consoles, computers, smartphones and online platforms.

 

Safety pointers

  • Not all games are specifically designed for children (even if they appeal to them) and the content may not be age appropriate or contain challenging themes that aren’t suitable for your kids.
  • Most consoles and devices can connect to the internet, allowing potential interaction with strangers.
  • Some platforms or individual games may require user accounts to be created and personal data to be provided.
  • Games are often designed to keep the user playing (which may make it difficult for children to disengage from them).
  • May contribute towards the amount of screentime your child is having.

 

‘Wearable Tech’

Wearable technology includes smart watches, fitness and GPS trackers, and even portable sports and action cameras (such as GoPros and similar devices). Some of this tech may be specifically designed for kids, or some of it may simply be highly appealing to them.

The majority of these types of devices are intended to track and collect certain types of personal data.

 

Safety pointers

  • Some wearable tech may track personal data such as activity data, physical and biological data, and even location data.
  • Most wearables will sync up with another device such as a smartphone or tablet.
  • Some wearables may have connectivity capabilities (such as Bluetooth, wifi, etc.)
  • User accounts are typically required to be set up and data may even be used for marketing purposes (depending on the device type).

 

Virtual Reality (VR) Devices

Virtual reality (VR) technology creates an immersive and interactive environment that a user can explore or game in. The environment may be highly realistic and make a user feel as if they are actually submerged in it.

Headsets, goggles and handheld controllers are typically required when using VR technology. Haptic devices are also being developed to work with VR tech to make the ‘touch’ aspect of a virtual environment feel ultra-realistic.

 

Safety pointers

  • VR technology is usually aimed at children 12+.
  • VR games and environments may contain difficult or challenging content for younger children.
  • Haptic devices can be used to simulate sensory aspects of a game (which can even include being shot).
  • Spatial awareness may be affected when using VR and wires or furniture may present trip hazards.
  • As with any other type of game, there’s the possibility of connecting with and interacting with other players (and potentially strangers).
  • May contribute towards the amount of screentime your child is having.

 

Drones

A drone is, in essence, a bit like a remote-control toy helicopter. However, drones are more likely to have higher-spec manoeuvrability and may even have built in additions like cameras.

Toy drones aimed at younger children are becoming increasingly available.

 

Safety pointers

  • Drones may have the ability to store certain types of usage, location, and flight data.
  • Drones with cameras may be able to record your child, as well as other people.
  • Discussions around personal privacy (for your child and other individuals) as well where drones can and cannot be flown are extremely important.
  • Drones may be able to collect and store personal and financial information.
  • There may be laws, rules and restrictions about where drones can (or cannot) be flown in your area.

 

Smartphones and Tablets

Smartphone and tablet devices can be a source of entertainment and communication for kids. They can even be used as educational aids too. However, with the almost limitless access to games, social media platforms, and everything else that the internet has to offer, it’s important to weigh up the risks and benefits of gifting your child with these types of devices.

 

Safety pointers

  • Children can access all varieties of content that may be inappropriate for their age or contain challenging themes.
  • They may be able to access social media and other applications that allow them to connect with and share content with strangers.
  • Websites, games, apps and so on may require user accounts to be set up and these might be able to collect and store personal data about your child.
  • These devices may detract from family time and physical activity, as well as contributing to their screentime.

 

DIGITAL PARENT TAKE-AWAY: Don't forget to give your children gifts that aren't toys, such as books, crafting dates, restaurant outings and more.

Non-tech toys make awesome holiday gifts too! 

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