Report Finds Growing Danger of Toys That Monitor Children

By on November 22, 2023 0 148Views

Ahead of the festive season of gifting, a consumer watchdog report has highlighted a growing threat posed by toys that can “spy” on children.

The “Trouble in Toyland” report for this year from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund contains a warning about potential problems with the “smart toy” industry.

This holiday season, with the ever-expanding selection of toys, the agency is encouraging parents to be aware of the risks that may be associated with them.

Teresa Murray, from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and co-author of the report, expressed her concern over the capability of some toys to do things that are “chilling”. She stressed that, while some of these gadgets can be “useful, fun or educational,” they can also cause “frightening situations” for many families.

Toys which incorporate technology, such as having cameras, microphones, the ability to connect to the web, and the capacity to track locations, can be classified as “smart toys”.

A study has determined that the market for smart toys looks to increase significantly in the coming years, with an estimated rise from $14.1 billion in 2019 to $16.7 billion in 2020, and an expected doubling by 2024.

Although these features may be useful, the report has raised the query of why they are being added to items that don’t require them; for instance, a soccer ball with an associated app or toy cars that have sensors that react to gestures.

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund advises that parents should thoroughly comprehend the extent of the advantages related to certain toys before granting their child access to them, despite the potential benefits they may see.

The consumer advocacy group has spoken out about some toys that have the potential to collect data on children without the knowledge of their parents if the privacy settings aren’t checked. This could, unfortunately, lead to various issues like data breaches, violations of child protection laws, and other safety risks.

The organization pointed out that since AI is advancing rapidly, it can bring up possible concerns, especially for those who are unaware of its capabilities. This is particularly true when it comes to the use of AI-powered toys.

Two months ago, an 11-year-old girl was taken away by a stranger who had engaged her while playing Roblox, a popular mobile game of 2021. Fortunately, she was located unharmed after 135 miles from her home, which has prompted the U.S. PIRG Education Fund to issue a warning.

In the Spring, the Federal Trade Commission charged Amazon, and its Alexa service of disregarding federal children’s privacy laws by not deleting voice recordings, even after the parents had asked for them to be removed.

Before you obtain a toy like a talking doll or a programmable gadget for your children this holiday season, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund advises that you look into two main points.

-Is the toy capable of permitting the child to link to the web and send emails, as well as access social media?
-Is there a microphone or camera present? If so, when will it start recording and will you be aware that it’s being done?

If further research is conducted, the report of the consumer protection organization contains a variety of queries to be considered contingent upon the answers to the two primary questions, which may be along the lines of: Does it have a microphone and, if so, is it saving any recordings and where are they being kept?

To view a complete set of inquiries, follow the link to review the document.