Children's smartwatches What they offer and how to choose a device


"Take me when you arrive!" A phrase that every child probably hears from their parents, and many times in the same day - whether they go to school, to a friendly house or to visit their grandmother.

Parents are increasingly trying to know the movements and position of their children and that is why many buy their children a smart watch.

But how do you choose the right device?

kids smartwatch

The children's smartwatches (smart clocks) are becoming increasingly popular in parent circles. And it is not strange. Because smart watches, like other smart devices, can save moms and dads from a lot of trouble, since thanks to them they can know where their children are at any time or even communicate with them.

"But not all devices that detect the position of children are a good choice - and therefore you should definitely be very careful in your choices," says Amer Owaida, a security columnist at cybersecurity company ESET.

What should you watch out for? According to ESET Owaida, these are the simple steps that will help you choose the safest and easiest product to use.

Do a good market research first

User reviews can help a lot if you want to make sure the device is reliable. Search the brand name and even the model name online, and add the words "security vulnerability" or similar word combinations to your search engine to see what security features are included.

Check the manufacturer's position on cybersecurity issues

Communication between the device and the manufacturer's server is encrypted. If not, avoid purchasing this product.

The smart clocks connected to servers. If they are not properly protected, they can be the easiest way for hackers to break into the device and gain access to information about your child: from where they are at the moment and how they say it, to phone numbers and conversations.

"This could inadvertently put your children at risk instead of keeping them safe," says Owaida. In addition, due to some vulnerabilities, cybercriminals may even be able to communicate with your child!

In 2019, the AV-TEST Institute discovered that a Chinese company that manufactures the smartwatch SMA-WATCH-M2, exposed the data of more than 5.000 children worldwide, as it did not pay due attention to server security. Thus, smartwatches were turned into potential monitoring devices.

Using the leaked data, the hackers were able to track the daily habits of a 10-year-old Anna from Germany, such as the child's GPS location, as well as his address and the routes he takes. "Bulk cheap Chinese-made IoT devices do not meet basic IT security or privacy standards," warns AV-TEST's Maik Morgenstern.

Among other things, the manufacturer's servers were not encrypted and Internet communication was insecure. Nevertheless, this was not an isolated case. Earlier that year, the European Commission ordered the recall of the Safe-KID-One smartwatch, again due to concerns about privacy and child safety.
Another good practice is to carefully read the privacy policies on the manufacturer's website and learn as much as you can about the brand and company.

Look for vulnerabilities

Were there any data breaches related to the product or company? Has the brand you are buying from faced any security issues? If so, how did the manufacturer behave? Has a solution been found to these problems? And if so, how fast?

If the company reacted correctly and transparently, there is no need to panic. Vulnerabilities are a common occurrence, but it is important to make sure that the manufacturer is ready to respond immediately. Also, check if the software can be updated and, if so, if the manufacturer makes such updates frequently. If this is not the case then maybe you want to try another product or brand.

The brand counts

Do not buy devices from unknown manufacturers if you cannot control how they secure your data or where they download it. Saving on the purchase price of a device can later cost more, such as stealing your data.

Remember to install the updates on the device

Not only the manufacturer but also you as a parent should regularly update the firmware to the latest possible version. When repairs are available, install them immediately, as their role is usually to make your device more secure.

If you do not, hackers will be able to exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to your devices - something you could have prevented if you had installed the update that addresses these issues.

Decide which features you need

Do you want to communicate via smartwatch or make video calls or phone calls with your child? Then look for a device with a built-in camera, speaker or microphone. Or, all you need is a smartwatch with a simple SOS function that, in case of emergency, the child will be able to communicate with someone from a predefined contact list? And how important is geofencing to you? This is the function that informs you when the child leaves a certain area.

Before investing in a smartwatch, think about the levels of control you want to have. There are models that allow you to even listen to your children's conversations and the surrounding sounds. Such functions can be useful in case your child starts communicating with a stranger. Some watches also include games and applications. In any case, the more functions the smartwatch has, the shorter the chance of its battery life being shorter.

Some models need to be charged almost every day, while others last for weeks.
No matter how feature-rich a device you decide to buy, always keep in mind that the more features the device offers, the more potential points of contact for hackers. If you choose a high-tech smartwatch, make sure it is properly protected.

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All in all, smart watches can be a great help if one chooses with the right criteria. The more time you spend researching and not just settling for the cheapest option, the more likely smartwatches are to become your best friend and your children's best friend. Wherever they go.

For those of you who want to learn more about "child and Internet safety" you can visit the site saferkidsonline of ESET.


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