Ohio News Connection

November 22, 2017

Cyber Security an Emerging Toy-Safety Concern

Mary Kuhlman

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Before checking off the items on their holiday gift list this year, there's another important list Ohioans may want to examine. 

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund's annual "Trouble in Toyland" report released Tuesday highlights items on store shelves that could be hazardous to children. 

Dev Gowda, toxics advocate for U.S. PIRG Education Fund, says cyber security with the use of smart devices is among PIRG's top concerns. 

The My Friend Cayla doll found at Kohl's and Walmart was listed because Gowda says it could compromise privacy. The doll has a microphone and Bluetooth capability to transmit audio recordings online.

"It's definitely been banned in Germany for privacy violations, and it is currently the subject of a complaint by several consumer groups to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, because it may violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act," Gowda points out.

The report notes that the FBI issued a consumer warning this year to consider cyber security before allowing children to use interactive, Internet-connected toys. 

Other items on the list include peg games with small pieces that could pose a choking hazard, balloons with misleading safety guidelines and fidget spinners that contain too much lead.

The Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass, and Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Metal, were both found at Target and the retailer announced it would remove them from store shelves. 

Gowda says if a child has a spinner, parents should check the brand.

"If they have them in their homes, they should immediately take them away from use from kids," he advises. "Most parents and consumers are aware of the negative health effects associated with lead, especially children, since they're most susceptible to lead poisoning."

This is the 32nd year for the "Trouble in Toyland" report, and Gowda says PIRG has seen great progress in toy safety. 

The list has helped spark more than 150 recalls and other enforcement actions over the past three decades.