3 Toys NOT to Buy Your Kids This Holiday Season

3 Toys NOT to Buy Your Kids This Holiday Season

Connected toys may excite kids, but parents need to be wary.

As we approach Black Friday and the kick-off to the holiday gift-buying season writ large, kids are asking for the newest, coolest toys – most of which are now Wi-Fi enabled and/or partnered with an app. Connected toys may excite kids, but parents need to be wary. Toys with cameras or microphones can potentially be hacked, and any device or app that requires you to make an account also poses security risks. Mozilla this year put together a “Privacy Not Included” guide across a wide variety of gifts. Here are three of their top offenders based on security and privacy criteria and risks.

  • Hello Barbie: This Barbie, which can have a two-way conversation with children and has progressive learning features, made headlines two years ago for security issues. The toy listened to and recorded children, sent that collected data to live on the company’s server, the data was shared with third parties, and the Wi-Fi and app could easily be hacked, potentially letting strangers listen to your children. This year, Hello Barbie has received updates to privacy and data storage but still has a microphone and requires you to make an account. It could still potentially record and say weird things to children.
  • Toymail Talkie: Toymail Talkie is essentially a walkie-talkie disguised as a plush. It has a Wi-Fi enabled box that parents can set up to let their children talk to approved family and friends using the app. The toy includes both a camera and a microphone, and the app requires you to make an account. Potentially, hackers could talk to or leave messages for your children.
  • Adidas miCoach Smart Soccer Ball: This soccer ball connects to an app to give feedback on power, spin, strike and trajectory to help develop and improve skills. The ball has a camera and microphone and can track your location, while the app requires you to create an account but doesn’t have privacy controls. The toy does collect some data on you but you are able to contact the company to see what data it has collected and amend, block or delete information.

As technology evolves and toys get “smarter,” here are four ways to keep your children’s play safe:

  • Change default passwords on connected items right away, and give each toy a unique password.
  • Check for software updates as soon as you open a toy and stay current on updates.
  • Research security issues before you buy your toys, and read the privacy policies provided by manufacturers so you know exactly what data your toys are collecting from your children.
  • Make sure your home’s internet is secure.

About the Author

Jessica Davis is the Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.

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