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Rising Concerns Over Smart Toys: The New Surveillance Threat to Children

A recent report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund has raised alarms over the increasing presence of smart toys that could potentially ‘spy’ on children. As the holiday season approaches, this revelation brings a new dimension to parental concerns regarding children’s privacy and safety.

Key Takeaways:

The Smart Toy Invasion

Smart toys, ranging from simple dolls to advanced drones and virtual reality headsets, are increasingly becoming part of children’s lives. These toys, equipped with features like microphones, location trackers, and the ability to connect to the internet, are causing concern among consumer advocacy groups. The U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s “Trouble in Toyland” report specifically points out the risks associated with these toys, including data breaches, hacking, and violations of privacy laws.

Parental Guidance Recommended

The report emphasizes the need for parents to be vigilant. It suggests conducting thorough web searches on smart toys, understanding their features, and reading their privacy policies. Questions like whether the toy connects to Bluetooth or the internet, collects private information, or can send messages online are crucial in assessing the safety of these toys.

Legislative Action Needed

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund is calling for more robust federal legislation to safeguard children’s online privacy. The report endorses the expansion of COPPA and the introduction of the TOTS Act. These legislative measures aim to establish new labeling rules for smart toys and ensure transparency in how personal information is collected and used by manufacturers.

A Balancing Act

While smart toys offer educational and entertainment value, balancing these benefits with privacy and security concerns is essential. The report’s findings suggest a growing need for industry standards and parental awareness to protect children in the digital age.

Consumer Reports’ Caution

Echoing the concerns, Consumer Reports has previously warned about the risks associated with internet-connected toys. Their findings indicate that while there may not be an immediate threat to children’s safety, more needs to be done to protect customer data.


The U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s report on smart toys serves as a crucial reminder of the evolving challenges in safeguarding children’s privacy in the digital era. As technology continues to advance, the responsibility falls on both parents and policymakers to ensure that children’s playtime remains safe and their personal information secure. The call for stronger legislation and increased awareness among consumers is a step towards achieving this balance.

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