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Buyers Beware – Annual Survey of Toy Safety Released

Posted on December 11, 2017
by David P. McCormack

David P. McCormack
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Holiday festivities are in full swing.  Shoppers are looking to find the perfect gifts for loved ones – especially children.  New “Internet of Things” connected online toys bring unfamiliar risks that parents should know about. And, of course, there is the usual crop of traditional toys that have been found dangerous but are still on store shelves.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released The 32nd Annual Survey of Toy Safety: Trouble In Toyland.  We’ve prepared a quick summary of the Survey’s major findings that shoppers and parents should keep in mind this year.

A new, hidden toy safety problem

This year, PIRG identified four categories of hazards in toys:

  1. Lead

  2. Small Parts

  3. Balloons

  4. Privacy problems

While the first three kinds are familiar, physical safety dangers to children, the fourth is something new.   

Toys connected to the internet create new risks of privacy violations.  They can expose information both about the children using them, and adults nearby.  This new generation of toys can record what they hear, connect wirelessly to nearby phones and laptops, and send information over the Internet.  Some require personal info about our children to allow online interactions.

In past years, toy makers did not practice good security, leading to personally identifying information of millions of children stolen.   

In 2015, the popular Vtech kids electronics brand had personal data for 6.4 million children and 4.8 million adults stolen from company computers.  The names, birth dates and gender of millions of children, and video and text messages they exchanged with adults, were stolen.   

In 2016, the Fisher-Price “Smart Toy Bear” could be hacked to steal a child’s name, birth date, and gender – enough information for identity theft.   

This year we’re still seeing the “Internet of Toys” playing fast and loose with consumer privacy.  For example, PIRG identified “My Friend Cayla” dolls, which have unprotected Bluetooth that allows any nearby phone to eavesdrop on families.  This fall, three different smartwatches for children have been found to have both security flaws and unreliable safety features.

These kinds of toys expose vast amounts of private information about our children. While these toys do not cause physical harm, they should be purchased and used with caution.

Physically dangerous toys

Data of toy-related deaths in children under 15 has been compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission since 2001.  Nearly 300 deaths have been recorded and have been broken down into four categories:  chocking/asphyxiation; riding toys, scooters, tricycles; toy boxes; and “other”.  Choking and asphyxiation deaths account for 40% of the total.

Dangerous toys still on the shelves

These products, sold by major retailers, including Target, Dollar Tree, Party City, Dollar City Plus, Kohl’s, and Walmart should be purchased with extreme caution and should be used only when age appropriate.

This year’s list of potentially hazardous toys from PIRG:   

  • Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass (rated for lead toxicity)

  • Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal (rated for lead toxicity)

  • Peg Game – Wooden Game (contains choking hazards)

  • Golf – Wooden Game (contains choking hazards)

  • Football – Wooden Game (contains choking hazards)

  • Mega Value Pack 14 Latex Punch Balloons (contains choking hazards)

  • Mega Value Pack 12 Water Bomb Packs (contains choking hazards)

  • Disney Princess Punchball Balloons (contains choking hazards)

  • H20 Blasters – Water Balloons (contains choking hazards)

  • Party Balloons – 10 (contains choking hazards)

  • My Friend Cayla dolls (collects data which may pose a children’s privacy law violation).

This is not a complete list!  Several other toys with similar issues have been identified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, with more than 30 recalls this year alone as a result of various defects.  Most recalled items can either be returned to the retailer for a full refund, or repaired at no cost to the consumer. For more detailed information, review PIRG’s Trouble In Toyland report.

SUGARMAN’s team of personal injury attorneys have extensive experience representing clients who have been harmed by unsafe consumer products.  If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dangerous product, please fill out a contact form, call us at 617-542-1000 or email info@sugarman.com.