Smart toys highlight this year's report on dangerous toys for children

A consumer advocacy group’s newest dangerous toys report highlights smart devices that spy on children.

Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund’s 38th annual “Trouble in Toyland” report looks at the smart toys, like microphones, cameras, connectivity, and location trackers.

“Smart toys can be useful, fun or educational, but interacting with some of them can create frightening situations for too many families,” said Abe Scarr, director of Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

PIRG highlights an incident two months ago when a man kidnapped an 11-year-old girl he encountered while playing the popular mobile game Roblox. The child was eventually found safe about 135 miles away from her home.

Earlier this year, Amazon was accused of violating federal children’s privacy laws through its Alexa service by collecting the voices and geolocation data of children under 13 years old and using the voices and data for its own purposes.

Besides smart toys, Illinois PIRG Education Fund looks at several low-tech threats, including water beads, button batteries and recalled and counterfeit toys for sale.

Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said important advancements have been made over the years with toy safety.

“Fifteen years ago, we passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which did things like take away lead and dyes from toys that children might chew on,” Schakowsky said.

The authors of the report said they tested both Meta’s newest virtual reality (VR) headset, the Quest 3, and its new junior VR accounts aimed at children ages 10 to 12. They note that the experts they interviewed recommended parents avoid VR for their kids and teens this holiday season.

Scarr said every year, about 150,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries.

“There is so much more we can do to protect them,” Scarr said.

A Meta spokesperson said the company is "committed to creating safe, positive experiences for young people on Meta Quest 3, and have collaborated with youth safety experts to help ensure an age-appropriate experience for teens and preteens on the Quest platform."

"Parents must set up parent-managed Meta accounts for 10-12 year olds and they control what apps their preteen can use," the spokesperson said.


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