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Unsafe smart toys are no fun way to play

18 November 2022

This Sunday 20 November Consumers International will join a panel of experts as part of the World Economic Forum’s Smart Toy Awards, hosted by the Dubai Future Foundation in the UAE.  

Smart toys – also known as connected toys are typically fitted with microphones, cameras or have an internet connection. They are testament to the way technology can allow all demographics to learn how to use technology. They are extremely popular, with sales growing byalmost 30% every year. 

However, as we have long argued these devices can be of significant harm to children without appropriate safeguards. Causes of concern include a lack of security, children being subject to hidden marketing and even children’s secrets being shared with third parties or when toys are easily accessible by hackers. For example, CloudPets led to child data being compromised from across 820,000 records and the popular doll, Cayla was found to contain illegal spy apparatus which led to its removal from the German market.

Children are especially vulnerable to consumer harms and deserve specific and carefully considered protection. In joining the panel this weekend, we will share core considerations for manufacturers, governments and others to uphold. This includes:   

  1. Security and Privacy. Providers should build security by design into connected toys, including in any software associated with such devices. Privacy standards should be met during their conception, design and life cycle. Where there are any security and privacy breaches, immediate action should be taken to inform consumers and mitigate their impact.
  2. Better information to buyers, providing transparency on things such as how the toys have been assessed, if and how the devices collect and use data and whether any toys incorporate marketing geared towards children. Consumers should know who to contact if they encounter issues 
  3. Mandatory third-party assessment to verify the products are fit for purpose before they go to market, with demographic provisions – such as for toys aimed at children under 36 months as well as toys which offer higher levels of risk.  
  4. Stronger standards set across both national, regional and global borders – for example statutory or voluntary agreements to ensure toys are fit for purpose  
  5. Customer support and complaint handling provided in a timely manner and with independent redress mechanisms made available when complaints cannot be resolved directly. 
  6. Sustainability providers should consider the environmental impacts of the toys, building them with resource efficiency in mind and empowering their customers to make more sustainable choices through guidance on efficient use, re-use, repair and disposal. 

“Children are our future. Thus, it is important to provide them with the right conditions and tools to learn. Smart toys are known for inspiring children to stimulate their creativity and innovation. It is our responsibility to ensure they are safe to optimise children’s path of learning.” - Hong Kong Consumer Council

“Parents want their children to learn from play, and their concerns about safety have expanded to include not only physical safety but verified privacy and security attributes. Toys should also be accessible, durable and affordable. The world’s greatest toys will be within the financial reach of all parents and their children.” - Consumer Council of Canada 

We are pleased to join with senior leaders of the Smart Toys Awards this weekend. These leaders include Marc Dullaert – Founder, KidsRights Foundation, May Liang, President of the China Toy & Juvenile Products Association, Aswini Weereratne KC, Expert Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers and Julie Inman Grant, Australia e-safety Commissioner and others. At the event Consumers International will highlight measures that must be in place to protect children. Whilst we provide advice to the World Economic Forum, we do not in any way endorse any of the products or companies under review. 


Read more on the ways our Members have been championing for safe toys: