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How to make sure your kids are safe online when using new 'smart toys'

Posted at 12:11 PM, Dec 28, 2021

There are some privacy concerns around certain toys kids may have gotten for the holidays, specifically those that incorporate smart tech and ask for specific pieces of information.

Consumer watchdogs with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) say parents should keep an eye on toys or gadgets with a camera or microphone. They also say to watch out for toys that connect to a mobile app or allow children to interact with other users and toys that require a personalized account that stores data.

The USPIRG says one of the most important things parents can do to protect a child's privacy is to help them with the startup process from start to finish.

"Having a strong password for an account is really important, and that's something a child wouldn't think about, so being there from the setup of a smart toy all the way through the process, just so you know what information is given, but also to make sure that you have those safeguards in place is really important," said Hannah Rhodes with USPIRG.

Experts believe more of these smart toys could be on the market soon. Transparency Market Research forecasts that the global smart toy industry will reach nearly $70 billion by 2026.

Many of those toys include some of the same technology used on our smartphones. For instance, Amazon has started creating toys that are Alexa-enabled.

Just with anything that collects information, there is the possibility of a data breach. In some instances, those breaches have already begun.

Cloud Pets, a line of internet-connected toys, has already suffered data breaches because the USPIRG says the company's website wasn't appropriately secured.

However, there are laws in place to protect the online profiles of children.

"The law of the land is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires toy manufacturers to contact parents for consent before collecting any information on a child under the age of 13," Rhodes said. "They also are supposed to allow parents to delete any information if that child is under 13 as well."

Market analysts expect demand for smart toys to be driven mostly by younger parents.