The recent VTech massive data breach has brought safety to the forefront again. Private information, including names, addresses, pictures, and chat logs belonging to over 6.4 million kids was stolen from the toy company by an anonymous hacker.
Safety for kids in the digital age is a huge concern and one of the main reasons I founded KIDOZ. Parents are faced with a complicated dilemma: how do they ensure their child is safe while they use digital products and connected technology, which is big part of childhood today.
Parents purchased products designed specially for kids trusting they were safe, and are now facing a situation where their kids’ personal information is in unwanted hands.
The scale of this breach could be a milestone in the industry, as parents reassess their trust in digital products. However, it is also a great opportunity to rethink what parents and the children’s technology industry can do to protect children and regain this trust again.
Only store necessary data:
It is the industry’s responsibility to only store data that is essential for the ongoing service of their clients. In today’s environment data is money, and companies tend to collect as much information as possible. This approach is not appropriate for children, and unnecessary collection of data should be avoided.
Get Parental Consent:
As demanded by COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, brands are required to get parental consent when collecting kids personal information. Companies should comply with those regulation carefully and should consider getting certified by an official COPPA program, such as kidSafe.
In addition, brands should also ensure they are transparent regarding their privacy policies and data collection. By presenting what information is collected from kids, and how it is stored in a clear and concise way, parents can make educated decisions about the data collected from their kids, and brands can earn parents trust.
Choose your partners carefully:
Most kids digital product implement external third party services in someway, typically for features such as billing and analytics. Through only working with products that are COPPA compliant, brands can ensure that they provide a safe environment.
Implement a higher level of data protection:
VTech has admitted that it’s data protection measures did not meet industry standards. Kids brands have a greater responsibility to make sure their data is kept safe at all times, and must implement stricter protection protocols to create a secure environment for our kids.
As a parent and developer of products for children, I have experienced first hand the benefits connected products provide kids. Through tablets, games, and apps education is democratized for children, and now more than ever kids have tools at their fingertips to break through boundaries and learn. It would be unfortunate for this event to draw developers away, and discourage parents from purchasing digital tools.
Building a product designed for kids is not enough if you don’t take measure to ensure kids and data are protected. Vtech is learning this the hard way and this is a lesson we should all learn from.