The other day I was on the phone with my sister – our land line, not a cell phone – and I said to her, “You’re my person.” This is a well-known phrase from the TV show Grey’s Anatomy; Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang used to say it to each other to cement the closeness of their friendship.

Recently, my nephew, age 12, received a letter in the mail. It was addressed to him personally, by name. Inside was a photocopied article about the powers of a new virility medicine, complete with the usual graphic promises for pleasuring the ladies. The article mentioned a specific “doctor” by name, but other than that, there was no contact information or order form or any other action request. It appeared to just be spam but in paper form.

My three kids all know the password to my phone.

It’s because I rely on them to play secretary for me when I’m driving. If the phone rings or there is a bing of a text, 99% of the time it’s a member of my immediate family trying to get in touch with something relatively pressing.

When we bought a cellphone for our son, we worried. We worried about how it would affect his brain to be hooked into social media all the time. We worried about online bullying and if he’d be respectful and responsible. We worried that he’d become a video screen monster who never looked up and only grunted in response to our questions about his day at the dinner table.

This year, it may not just be Santa Claus who sees your kids when they’re sleeping and knows when they’re awake: one of the hottest trends this season is so-called “smart toys”, which use the Internet to hold artificially intelligent conversations with kids while they play. Last year’s Hello Barbie, one of the first to use this technology, was found to have a number of major security flaws – including automatically connecting the mobile device to which it was tethered to any Wi-Fi network with “Barbie” in its name. Now two more toys, a doll called My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Intelligent Robot, have been found to collect data in ways that are far more worrying. 

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