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Before giving in to your kid's plea for a new toy, you may want to collect some information about it. Why? Well, for one thing, that toy may want to collect information about your kid. I’m talking about internet-connected smart toys with cameras, microphones, and sensors. The ones that know your kids’ voices (and yours). Smart toys that silently collect data on each interaction, listen to conversations, and share their location while kids play.

Internet-connected smart toys have opened up a whole new set of possibilities for toys — experiences that are educational, just plain cool, or both. But smart toys run the risk of being hacked by criminals, or having their data misused, just like any other device.

Before buying a smart toy this holiday season, be sure you know how it works. If you can’t find information on how a smart toy collects, shares, or secures your kids’ data, think about buying something else.

  • Have there been security issues or recalls reported for this smart toy? Search online for the toy’s name, the company that makes it, plus the words “complaint,” “security,” and “privacy.”
  • What do watchdog and safe harbor groups have to say about it? Many offer smart toy recommendations.

Understand the smart toy’s features:

  • Does the toy come with a camera or microphone? What will it be recording, and will you know when the camera or microphone is on?
  • Are you okay with a toy that sends email to your child or connects to social media accounts?
  • Can parents control the toy and be involved in its setup and management?

Understand what information the smart toy collects, and how it will be used:

  • What kind of information does the toy collect when your child plays with it?
  • Where is this data (including pictures and recordings) stored, how is it shared, and who has access to it? Does the toy company give parents a way to see and delete the data?
  • If the toy collects personal information from your child under 13 years old, the toy company has to tell you about its privacy practices, ask for your consent, and give you the right to have your child’s personal information deleted. If it doesn’t, consider buying a smart toy that does. Or consider whether your kids might be happy with a toy that’s not quite so smart.

For more information, check out our Protecting Kids Online page.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Frequent flyer
December 06, 2018
My message is to any reader who does not yet know that the Consumer Federal Trade Commission, (teal) is the most helpful way to be ahead of the game and perhaps make for a better life for many of us in the process! There in this latest Blog “Protecting Kids on Line” speaks volumes. Is there anything more important than your kids? “The future of our world”. Whew!! Thats an oftentimes scary statement to think about these days! But just maybe, with a little due diligence, such as keeping abreast of valuable information (as this arguably is) from sites like the Consumer FTC, we can make our children’s future better than todays outlook. Perhaps even enable their future to be “all their own”? What a concept for them someday to know in their identity can no longer belong to anyone else! Every little warning and precaution can help to make this happen. It’s a small step in a huge pool with nothing to loose and everything to gain! Once again KUDOs FTC! From a huge fan!
December 14, 2018
Have there been any studies regarding kiddiebuzz phones
December 21, 2018
This is criminal and nothing is being done about it. I thought recording was illegal in some circumstances; I thought we had at least some freedom of choice. We thought it was just the gov that would intrude. We didnt know it would be any business with enough cash to purchase the needed software.
September 24, 2019
Thanks for nice post.