The smart toy market is growing

The demand for technological toys is increasing and sounding the alarm bells for the privacy and safety of children.

The big picture: The global smart toys market is expected to reach nearly $ 70 billion by 2026, according to Transparency Market Research.

It means figurines that respond, robots that follow children and dollhouses that look like smart homes will increasingly become holiday and birthday gifts.

  • “You can go to Target and find an entire aisle almost entirely made up of smart toys,” says James Zahn, editor of trade publication The Toy Insider.
  • “These are products that start at preschool age,” and some of these little toys have the kind of advanced technological capabilities that our smartphones have, he says.

What already exists:

  • KidKraft and Amazon have teamed up to create an Alexa-enabled kitchen and toy marketplace.
  • PlayShifu has a smart globe which comes with an app and tells kids different facts about the world by tapping on different places.
  • Huge! Play has an animatronic figure called GameBud Talking Tom who speaks in real life but also interacts with children in mobile games on their devices.

“The demand is really motivated by parents, especially young parents,” says Zahn.

  • Kids are spending more time on screens than they ever have, and parents want to engage them with exciting, tech-infused toys that often have educational value instead of letting them browse the internet on iPads. . , he said.

But smart toys come with it the same data privacy concerns as the rest of the Internet of Things ecosystem, experts say.

  • “These toys can come with cameras or microphones, they can connect children to the Internet or other users, and they can create personalized online accounts for children,” says Hannah Rhodes, an oversight organization. consumers associated with the US Public Interest Research Group. All of these functions require careful parental supervision.
  • While adults know how voice assistant technologies work, “children … may not understand that they have to pay attention to the information they share with the toy,” says Melanie Subin, director of the board of directors of the. toy. Institut Futur Today.
  • As a result, they “could give out details such as their address or date of birth that pose a risk if the toy company’s systems were compromised.”

This has happened in the past. For example, in 2015, smart toy maker VTech suffered a data breach that exposed millions of children’s data.

  • Yet “toys are more regulated in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world,” says Zahn. And this regulation is likely to intensify as smart toys become smarter and more popular.

The bottom line: Smart toys can delight children and teach them things.

  • But as toys are more and more connected, “It will be imperative that toy makers are held accountable for privacy and data security measures, especially when dealing with small customers who cannot yet protect themselves,” Subin said.


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