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Smart Speakers

This week's Online Safety blog comes from The UK Safer Internet Centre, who offer clear advice and guidance for parents and carers.

In their series focused on helping parents use devices safely, there is a specific section on the use of smart speakers.

What risks should I be aware of?

Like any piece of technology, smart speakers have both benefits and risks. Many of the risks depend on how a smart speaker is being used. There are some key concerns people have about children using smart speakers in particular:

  • Accessing inappropriate or false content

  • Making unauthorised or accidental purchases

  • Having their data collected and used

  • Being ‘hacked’ through other devices the smart speaker is connected to

What can I do to manage the risks?

When setting the device up, be selective about what you share. If you already have a smart speaker, review what you have already shared in your profile or account. Consider whether you really need to link it to credit cards, address books or other connected devices (e.g. lights, security). Discuss the importance of using unique passwords with your child and keeping them private.

Set up parental controls on the smart speaker itself and any apps that have been linked to it. This can help reduce the risk of accessing inappropriate content (e.g. playing songs with adult lyrics). As smart speakers take information from the internet, make sure children know that the information that a smart speaker provides might not always be accurate.

Visit Internet Matters for a guide on how to set up parental controls on your smart speaker.

Keep talking with your child about how they are using the smart speaker and take an interest in the things they use it for. Remember that they may get a chance to use one unsupervised, for example, at a friend’s home. Set up a plan together about what they should do if something worrying or upsetting happens while using the smart speaker e.g. stop speaking, leave the room and tell an adult. Show them you are someone they can go with any questions or worries.

What can I do if something goes wrong?

Reassure your child they have done the right thing by telling you and that you are there to listen and help. Try to remain calm and non-judgemental, to help your child feel comfortable in telling you how the issue happened.

Ask about the problem and try to find out how it happened. Was your child searching for something that you can answer instead? Smart speakers can be helpful but adults can give more personalised, age-appropriate answers to difficult questions. If something happened by accident, reassure your child it wasn’t their fault. Learn together from the experience and talk about how it could be avoided in the future. Explore the settings to see if you can do something to limit the risk of it happening again.

For help for on specific problems, see the following advice on parental controls, and misinformation.


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