“Smart toys can be useful, fun or educational, but interacting with some of them can create frightening situations for too many families.”
The global market for smart toys grew to $16.7 billion this year from $14.1 billion last year, according to a large market research firm, and is predicted to more than double by 2027.
However, experts are sounding the alarm warning that those technological toys are becoming an increasing security risk to children, as some have been caught improperly collecting and storing data — and even being hacked.
The growing threat of AI has also infiltrated the toy industry as this advanced, still experimental technology is being integrated into products advertised for children as young as 3 years old.
The agency advises shoppers to research the products on a child’s wish list “before buying a toy with a microphone, a camera, a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection or any ability to collect information about young children.”
The U.S. PIRG Education Fund recommends gift-givers make sure they understand the technological capabilities of the toy, do a web search for the toy to read reviews of the product and research the toy manufacturer to check for a history of troubling violations.
Questions to ask when shopping:
What features make this product a smart toy?
Does it have a secure Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection?
Does the toy allow the child to connect to the internet and send emails or connect to social media?
Does it have a microphone or camera? If so, when will it record and how will you know?
Who has access to the data collected?
Does the toy manufacturer have a history of troubling violations?