With the holiday shopping season now well underway, there's a warning for parents who may be thinking about buying smart toys for their kids.
Experts say many have the ability to spy on children, or even steal their identity.
Statistics show smart toys make up a $6 billion industry that’s expected to triple by 2023.
Smart toys are usually equipped with a camera or microphone, and connect to the internet.
"All these could create privacy concerns with your child and while not all smart toys are dangerous, it's incredibly alarming that a child's privacy could be at risk," said Hannah Rhodes, a consumer watchdog associate with U.S. PIRG, a non-profit organization that looks at issues regarding consumers' health and safety.
Rhodes recently authored a report called 'Trouble in Toyland,' which found some smart toys pose security risks, like data being collected on a child, a hacker gaining access through a Bluetooth connection or children being exposed to inappropriate content.
"This year in our report, we actually looked at a children's karaoke machine, and it was able to be connected to by Bluetooth. What we found is even if the toy was turned on and you didn't hit the Bluetooth pairing button, you could connect to it from 30 feet away outside your home," said Rhodes.
And that's just one example.
If a game or app requires a profile, a child's log-in information can lead to identity theft or worse.
By law, if a toy collects personal information from a child less than 13 years
old, the toy company is supposed to tell parents about its privacy practices, ask for parental consent and give parents the right to have their child's personal information deleted.
But, toy companies aren't tech companies, meaning it could be easier for hackers to still steal that information.
Rhodes's advice: parents need to be there when a smart toy is set up.
If your child has to create an account, make sure they use a strong password and don't provide too much information.
"They are becoming more popular and that's why it's important that we are discussing what issues could possibly occur and making sure we're stopping or preventing them before they happen," said Rhodes.
This issue is something the FBI has also warned about.
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