The Hidden Dangers of Smart Toys: Protecting Our Children’s Privacy and Safety


In an age where technology is advancing at a rapid pace, the toys our children play with are no longer simple, inert objects. They have evolved into sophisticated devices capable of recording, tracking, and interacting with their young users. This holiday season, parents should be aware of the growing threat that these “smart toys” pose to their children’s privacy and safety.

Smart toys, designed with artificial intelligence, are increasingly becoming a staple in children’s lives. Some of these toys are targeted at kids as young as three years old. For instance, products like the Fisher Price’s Smart Toy Bear, which was discontinued due to security concerns, could listen, talk, and record conversations, highlighting the potential for these toys to infringe on privacy.

The risks associated with smart toys are not limited to privacy invasion. There are also health concerns, particularly regarding the effects of virtual reality technology on developing brains. Experts, such as Dr. Mark Bertin, caution against exposing children to such technologies before understanding their long-term implications.

Moreover, the market for smart toys has seen significant growth, reaching $16.65 billion in 2023. With this surge in popularity, it is crucial for parents to take proactive steps to safeguard their children. Parents should educate themselves on whether a toy connects to the internet and if it has recording capabilities, such as a microphone or camera.

It is also advisable for parents to review the specific privacy policy of the toy, not just the company’s general policy. Researching the toy company’s history for any controversy or privacy issues can provide additional insight. Online reviews and feedback from other parents can serve as valuable resources for identifying potential red flags.

The incident involving an 11-year-old New Jersey girl who was kidnapped by a man she allegedly met on a popular gaming platform serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers these connected toys and platforms can present. While the company denied the two met through their service, the case underscores the need for vigilance.

To combat these threats, parents are encouraged to follow a set of recommendations to protect their children. Knowing when and how a toy records, understanding its internet connectivity, and being aware of the company’s privacy practices are essential steps.

As we navigate this new terrain of technologically advanced playthings, it is imperative that we prioritize the well-being and safety of our youngest and most vulnerable.