Are You Aware of These Smart Toy Dangers That Can Harm Kids?

This holiday season will see the first big wave of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered toys for children. Teddy bears, robots, and even building blocks with AI capabilities might be on your kids’ wishlist. And the demand is only just beginning. 

The global market for smart toys grew from $14.1 billion in 2022 to $16.7 billion this year, according to the Smart Toys Global Market Report 2023. The business of smart toys is expected to more than double by 2027. 

We’re surrounded by smart devices that all come with microphones, cameras, location trackers, and more, which means the ever-increasing connectivity is nothing new. Business Insider reports why this is problematic for AI-powered smart toys, “These advanced toys have the capability to generate personalized stories based on individual preferences and may even collect and store private information such as school details and names of friends.” 

So unlike traditional toys, these possess the ability to learn about your kid, adapting to their personality and preferences.

That means the toy could collect data on your kids, family, friends, locations, and more! 

Real Life Smart Toy Risks and Dangers 

Advocates are urging the Federal Trade Commission to do more to protect the privacy of children after seeing the risks that come with toys that connect to WiFi or Bluetooth, including these examples from the Trouble in Toyland 2023 toy safety report: 

  • An 11-year-old girl was kidnapped by a man she encountered while playing a game online. Fortunately, she was found safe a short time later, about 135 miles away from her home. The game, Roblox, is one of the most popular mobile games this year.
  • The Federal Trade Commission accused Amazon of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA) through its Alexa service by keeping the voice recordings of children indefinitely and failing to delete children’s transcripts, even when a parent requested they be deleted. Amazon also gathered geolocation data and used children’s transcripts for its own purposes.
  • A few years ago, Fisher Price’s Smart Toy Bear was discontinued. It was created for children ages 3 through 8 as “an interactive learning friend that talks, listens, and ‘remembers’ what your child says and even responds when spoken to,” according to WeLiveSecurity. But research found a security flaw in the app that would allow hackers to get information about children without permission.

Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Smart Toy

Many toys from major manufacturers have been discontinued in recent years after research showed that children’s voices, images, locations, and other information were improperly collected or hacked. In some cases, vulnerable toys are still for sale. The big questions to ask before purchasing a smart toy:

  1. Does the toy allow the child to connect to the internet and send emails or connect to social media?
  2. Does it have a microphone or camera? If so, when does it record, and will you know it’s recording?

If your children already have AI-powered smart toys, here are some tips for parents to enhance safety and privacy when they’re in use:

  1. Disable any live video and text chat features.
  2. Utilize the parental settings on the toys to control playtime and monitor activities. 
  3. Read and understand the privacy statement to know how your data will be used. 
  4. Ensure that the toy can be reset to erase any stored data. 

Smart Toys May Be a Threat to Your Child’s Privacy

There’s so much joy associated with the holiday season. It’s up to parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and family to keep that spirit alive by selecting safe toys for the kids in our lives. Read the annual Trouble in Toyland survey to review toy safety guidelines and buying tips. 

If you have concerns surrounding a smart toy violating your child’s privacy and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.