Smart life

Whether smart speakers, smart TVs, smart watches or smart toys - smart devices have conquered households in Germany within just a few years. However, the triumph of smart devices is not only seen in a positive light. There are regular reports of data leaks and hacker attacks. Concerns that the manufacturers of smart devices will be able to expand their monopoly position further and further and collect huge amounts of data are omnipresent. Whether one is willing to share personal data from the highly private sphere of one's own home with globally active companies is something that everyone must decide for themselves.

However, anyone using smart devices in a household where children are growing up must take into account their right to privacy and their special need for protection. klicksafe has compiled information and tips below to help make growing up with smart devices as safe as possible for children.

"Alexa, Siri & Co.: Opportunities and Risks of Voice Assistants"

Smart Speaker

Amazon, Google and Apple are the companies that dominate the European market for smart speakers, or voice assistants. These devices are Internet-connected speakers that can be controlled by voice command. Thus, one can easily get information about the weather, the time or the movie program by voice command. Alexa, Siri and Co. are thus characterized by particularly simple and intuitive operation. But other household items such as lamps, heaters or shutters can also be linked to smart speakers and controlled by voice command. The ability to influence objects in the environment by voice is a great fascination for children and is quickly making smart speakers a popular toy. However, none of the companies that dominate the market have designed their devices for use by adolescents.

How do smart speakers work?

Prevent eavesdropping

Users can take a few precautions to reduce the likelihood of private data ending up on the servers of internationally operating companies:

  • One option is to set the smart speakers so that they cannot be activated by voice command, but only by pressing a button on the device. This can greatly reduce the frequent random recordings, but it also reduces the ease of use.
  • Furthermore, it is possible to configure the devices in such a way that they emit a signal tone when activated and people in the vicinity are thus informed about the started recording.
  • The safest way to prevent unwanted recordings is still to turn off the smart speaker completely as long as it is not in use.

Deleting collected recordings

  • Users of smart speakers from Amazon or Google can easily get an overview of which recordings have been made in the past and should delete them regularly.
  • For Amazon smart speakers, open the Alexa app, select "Settings", then "Alexa Account" and finally "History".
  • For Google devices, log in to your Google account, click on "Data & Personalization", then in the Activity Settings section, click on "Voice & Audio Activities", and finally click on "Manage Activities".
  • Apple device users do not have the option to listen to or delete the recorded audio.

Smart TV

Smart TVs are Internet-capable televisions that can call up content from the web in addition to the "classic" TV program. Meanwhile, well-known streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are already preinstalled on Smart TVs. However, anyone who wants to use the devices in a household with children and therefore set them up to be childproof must first make the necessary configurations. Parents should also be aware that smart TVs can also access content on the web that is not suitable for children and young people.

Tips for parents

Children should not use voice assistants or smart TVs unsupervised, as they may encounter risky services that are not age-appropriate. So the devices also have no business in a child's room. Through shared use, such as researching knowledge questions, parents can teach important safety rules. Children should also be made aware that they should not share private information with smart speakers. As with any other device, such as a smartphone, parents should think in advance about the age at which voice assistants should be used by children and the rules that should be followed. 

The devices do not yet have comprehensive parental control settings, but they can be made safer with the available options. For example, purchases via voice command or websites with content that is not suitable for children should be secured with a PIN. Voice recordings should be deleted at regular intervals. It is possible to mute the speakers when parents are absent so that the child cannot activate the device.

Since the technology market and also smart devices are constantly evolving, it is advisable to learn about the functionalities and risks before buying a smart speaker or smart TV.

With most providers such as Netflix and others, it is also possible to set up a parental code or a special children's account within the apps. These should be used to ensure safer use for the child. Instructions for the three largest services can be found here: