How Cyber Safe is Your Christmas List?

By Joe Gervais

The holidays are here again! Family time, catching up with friends and relatives, too many stores selling things made with pumpkin spice, and shopping for presents. However, while you and your family celebrate the season, there’s one thing we should all add to our lists: Talking with our kids about online safety and privacy.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “Thanks, Captain Buzzkill.” Discussing online safety with your kids about may seem as exciting as talking with them about cleaning their room, but the right conversation can make a big difference. will help you and your kids have a conversation about online security. And you can make it fun along the way.

Think about what’s really part of the “package”…

You can start by thinking about how the gifts you buy this season may affect their security and privacy. From their first smartphone or tablet to internet-connected teddy bears and play devices, the gifts you choose this season can have important impacts on your children’s safety and privacy.

Every year, more and more toys and other products come with internet-enabled features. Maybe it’s a bear or a doll that will tell stories (downloaded from the internet). Or a toy console that asks your child to take a “selfie” that they can add to their toy’s display (uploaded to the company’s computers). Maybe the toy comes with an online website where the company asks your child all kinds of data about themselves (stored on the company’s computers) in exchange for extra features.

Some toys and online games offer in-game chat rooms or “private” messaging, with no way of knowing who they are actually talking to on the other side (and also stored on the company’s computers). A device’s internet-enabled camera allows your kid to video chat with other kids, or anyone else who can figure out how to access that camera from anywhere in the world.

Make safety a priority…

It sounds like a lot of doom and gloom for the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be. You and your family simply need to be aware of the issues, and together make good choices on what to do about them.

 The first question you should be asking is whether you really need that gift to be connected to the internet in the first place. There are hundreds of teddy bears that can be a good friend without any internet connection at all. Did I mention that good old teddy bears can take a bath or fall into puddles and be just fine?

Family online security is the gift that keeps on giving. Go to to get the conversation started with your family, just in time for the holidays.

Joe Gervais is the principal cybersecurity researcher at Symantec.

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