This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Kaspersky Lab.
Our children engage in the digital world from their earliest days. When our daughter was born, I would upload weekly videos to YouTube so our family on the other side of the world could keep track of her development.
This has grown from there, now including sharing her story with people we don’t know, via this blog and associated accounts. Being online is as much a part of her life as play, books, and television.
She – like many of her peers – is beginning to explore this world herself. While she doesn’t have her own phone or tablet, she does have a KANO computer. This is used under supervision, but the issue of her online safety is becoming something we need to make part of her day-to-day life as much as, for instance, road safety.
Global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab recently surveyed 10-15-year-olds and found that a third had witnessed online violence, and a quarter had viewed pornography. Two thirds also said they knew how to hide what they were looking at from their parents.
They also interviewed some children about what they had seen or encountered online, and how much their parents know about what they’re up to.
Our children are living a digital life in a way that no previous generation has been able to. Online trolling, bullying, and even grooming are a modern phenomenon for us as parents to deal with. Kaspersky Labs have recognised this, and parent’s growing concern (as well as lack of knowledge).
They have a product called Kaspersky Safe Kids which can help protect children online, whether on a desktop, laptop, or smartphone. Beyond this, you are also able to monitor their online conversations and keep track of their location.
Parts of this may be a step to far for some, as there are clearly issues around privacy. Should we be monitoring our children’s whereabouts and communication so closely? Should we tell them we’re doing it? If they know, will they find other ways around it, or if we don’t is it breach of trust?
But the fact remains there are people trying to advantage of children online. As parents, the choice of how to approach this is yours. The online environment is not one we grew up with – especially in terms of handheld devices and social media.
Like road safety, we need to strike a balance between educating our kids as well as ensuring they remain safe.
Kaspersky Safe Kids is a downloadable app which helps you protect your children in a digital world, on their iPhones, iPads, Macs and Computers. For just £10.99 for a year’s subscription you can stay connected with your kids and be sure they are in a safe place. For more information about Kaspersky Safe Kids, please visit iTunes.
What are the top toys for Christmas? Smyths Toys – who kicked off the Christmas 2016 toy rush in style with this great TV ad that defied traditional gender stereotypes – have revealed their list of top toys for Christmas 2016.
In common with many retailers, and the toy industry in general, they still have some work to do in how they present toys to boys & girls – it’s often still boys playing with superheroes & bikes, and girls with dolls & prams.
But their Christmas ad shows that they’re evolving their offering. For that they should be applauded and I look forward to how this develops in the future.
For now, here are my highlights from their best toys of 2016. The full list features a range of toys – some of which I’m more of a fan of than others!
Smyths top toys for Christmas 2016
1. LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack
We love LEGO Dimensions. It is the perfect marriage of LEGO and LEGO video games and to my mind one of the best toys of 2016.
This starter pack comes with everything you need to get cracking with it (ok, apart from the console. And the TV). There are 3 minifigures (Batman, Wyldstyle, and Gandalf), a mini kit of the Batmobile, plus the game pad with buildable platform, and the game itself.
Each figure & minikit (that you get instructions how to build in-game) has a special base that the game pad can read, and then place a virtual version of that figure/vehicle in the game. The figures also unlock extra worlds to explore in the game, so these three open access to DC world, LEGO movie, and Middle-earth.
There are dozens of expansion packs, featuring LEGO versions of some great pop culture icons, ranging from the Wicked Witch to the all-female Ghostbusters.
Highly recommended, and unlikely to disappoint any child who loves LEGO and video games.
2. Imaginext Remote Control Transforming BatBot
Exclusive to Smyths Toys, this Batman toy is part of the Imaginext DC line. It is basically a huge exoskeleton for the Batman figure, which transforms between a robot and a tank (sounds familiar?) either manually or by using the supplied remote control. It also fires discs and has over 100 sound effects and phrases.
It does look pretty cool, and I like the Imaginext line of DC superheroes – who are much better at including female superhero characters than most Marvel lines.
3. Nerf N-Strike Elite Hyperfire Value Pack
Hasbro’s Nerf has for too long been seen as a boys brand. I know from experience that girls love running around shooting things too – so why not add this to your little girl’s Christmas list?
This Nerf Elite toy – also exclusive to Smyths – is a beast of a toy gun, with its Gatling Gun-like barrel that fires 5 darts a second! Each barrel holds 25 darts, and this also comes with a spare fully loaded drum – so that’s 50 darts, to fire off in 10+ seconds (depending on how fast you reload). Each dart also fires up to 27m, so perfect for long range NERF attacks.
This is the kind of toy I wish existed when I was a kid – we had to make do with cap and potato guns.
4. LEGO City Volcano Crawler
The LEGO City range has made great improvements in their inclusion of female minifigures in recent years, and we’re seeing most sets featuring at least one – and in increasingly non-stereotypical roles.
This Volcano Crawler set features two male and one female minifigure. The finished set has a larger articulated ‘crawler’ as well as a smaller ATV. It has 324 pieces, and while it is recommended for ages 6-12, it would be a fun project with a younger child too.
5. BMW GS Motorcycle 12v Electric Ride On
There’s always one kid at the park, who everyone else stares at with envy because they have the coolest toy.
Your child can be that kid with this BMW ride on bike.
It looks sleek, has accelerator sound effects, and LED headlights. It’s powered by a powerful 12v twin engine, and will turn heads wherever your child goes.
If you have a daughter and want to smash gender expectations early, then this gift will announce to the world that ‘Girls love bikes too’.
To check out the rest of Smyths top toys for Christmas, head to their website.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Smyths Toys.
Reading Eoin Colfer & Oliver Jeffers charming children’s book Imaginary Fred, the tale of a lonely imaginary friend, brought to mind my daughter and her own version – Ahsoka.
Star Wars fans will likely recognise the name of the famed Jedi knight and rebel fighter from cartoons and books. She has enthralled my daughter since first seeing her in The Clone Wars. As a powerful, independent, confident, and loyal character, I couldn’t ask for a better imaginary companion for my daughter.
My daughter’s friend is not the teenage or adult female version of Ahsoka. She is Ahsoka when she was a little girl, just like her. She is a part of our family, sitting with us at meal times, accompanying us when we’re out & about, sleeping in her room at night. Sometimes, my daughter leaves her home with me to look after.
She can also misbehave, which my daughter complains about because it annoys her. Ashoka often objects to things that we ask our daughter to do. For instance, me: “Do you want to come to the shops with me?”. Her: “Well, Ahsoka says she’s too tired to go.” When she can’t get to sleep, she blames Ahsoka who keeps talking to her. It is a real friendship, full of intrigue and dynamism.
Their relationship has evolved into becoming sisters, and we are her adopted parents. In context, all of this makes sense.
My daughter, unlike most of her friends, is an only child. And, much to her disappointment, she is likely to remain so. But she is a very social person, who loves spending time with her friends, and is constantly wanting to arrange playdates. She adores school because she gets to spend all day with them.
We do our best to play with her, crafts, LEGO, Star Wars, video games – but she has an emotional need for a playmate. With Ahsoka, they play dolls together, board games too. Sometimes they run around and chase each other.
In Imaginary Fred, the story develops that Fred (the imaginary), fades away into the clouds when a child makes a real friend – because he is not needed any more. But what has been an interesting development in my daughter, is that Ahsoka is becoming part of her playdates.
The other week we were in a playground with her best friend – her actual best friend, not the imaginary one. They were having a great time playing together, and when the activity turned to the imaginative, Ahsoka was brought into the game by my daughter. What really surprised me was her (real) best friend was going along with it too by involving Ahsoka in the game, and making sure she was ok.
I have worried – as parents are want to do – whether this focus on her imaginary friend is healthy. But this is only a fleeting concern. There have been many times when I have called her bluff on an Ahsoka excuse, and she has retorted “But Ahsoka’s only imaginary daddy…!”
I love our daughter’s imagination, fuelled by wonderful stories such as Imaginary Fred. Such an imagination is a wonderful thing, but it could be a lonely place to be in for too long – without an imaginary friend to share it with.
‘Imaginary Fred’ is out now, and has an RRP of £12.99 hardback, or £7.99 paperback.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with publisher Harper Collins.
At Smyths Toys princesses and Queens are for girls AND boys. The latest TV ad from Smyths Toys Superstores sees a boy dreaming of being a series of toys – including dressing as a Queen.
Beyonce’s 2008 song ‘If I Were a Boy’ saw her musing on life as a man – and coming to the conclusion that she would probably make a better one than the ex-lover she is singing about.
Smyths Toys have reworked the song for their latest TV ad, which sees a boy imagining life ‘If I Were a Toy’, while browsing around one of Smyths Toys superstores. The ad finds him zipping from one amazing adventure after another – from flying in space to dancing so much his batteries run out.
Rather aptly, seeing as it’s based on a song about gender swapping, the ad neatly subverts traditional notions of boys and girls toys. While the usual suspects of Star Wars and LEGO are represented in the boys fantasy journey, we also see his immersion include the likes of Barbie, Frozen, and at one point he sings of being ‘Queen of the land’ – wearing a dress and a tiara.
The toy industry still has a way to go – but it has definitely improved in its approach to toys for boys and girls.
Anyone who spends time with young kids on a regular basis will have seen this – at playgroup while there will be girls with the train set on the floor, you’ll also find boys pushing buggies and running around in princess dresses. A gender neutral approach to toys isn’t about pushing a hidden social engineering agenda, as critics like to claim. If anything, it’s the opposite (undoing one) and simply reflecting the reality of how kids play.
A lot of the buzz around gender neutral categories in toys has been around girls not being excluded from playing with action figures and construction sets. But it’s easy to forget there are lots of boys who enjoy princesses and ponies. Encouraging them to feel confident in engaging in this is just as important.
So in its own small way, this TV ad is playing a part in subverting stereotypes of what it means to be a boy. And while it sees him imagining life as a toy, perhaps the toy industry is reimagining what a boy wants to play with.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Smyths Toys Superstores