Smart toys are the next big thing in the toy industry. They can be designed to use facial recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) to learn about the child user and personalize the playing or learning experience for them. For example, these smart features can be combined with dolls to learn about a child’s favourites and speak to the child.

In fact, smart toys have already been developing and become commercially available over the past few years. The global market for these types of toys is estimated to reach $18 billion by 2023.

The growing market for smart toys is expected to reach $18 billion by 2023. [Source: Statista]

When these toys are designed ethically and responsibly, they can provide great learning opportunities for children. The toys could teach children how to do certain tasks like programming, or help children with disabilities develop their cognitive and social skills.

However, just like with any smart device, these smart toys can pose potential security risks to the children’s data and safety.

In 2017, a smart doll was declared an illegal surveillance tool because of such security risks. The data that the doll collected was sent to the manufactured and third-party companies for storage and processing. Furthermore, anyone within 30 feet of the toy could access it and listen to the sounds being picked up.

The data could also pose issues for the child down the line when they apply to college or for a new job. If data collected via smart toys can be sold to other companies then those companies may discriminate against their candidates based on otherwise private matters.

Regardless of the hazards and risks, smart toys are being developed and will continue to exist in the future. The way forward is to regulate the toys and ensure they meet the necessary criteria.

The Smart Toy Awards is a program that tries to set those ethical and responsibility criteria and reward companies to follow them. The criteria are data privacy and cybersecurity, accessibility and transparency, age appropriateness, and healthy play.

Parents and guardians should understand how the children’s data is collected, used, and who it is shared with. Transparency on the company’s behalf will empower parents and guardians to make informed decisions on the subject.

This news bite was adapted from an article originally written for WE Forum.

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