LOS ANGELES -- With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, the California Public Interest Research Group released its "Trouble in Toyland 2023" report, pointing out toys the group found to be dangerous or invasive to privacy.
"Products that are in the hands of our little ones, those products must be safe. This is not negotiable," said California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who took part in a CALPIRG virtual news conference Thursday.
Some of the toys may look harmless, like the CogniToys Dino, which is a Wi-Fi-enabled smart toy for 5 to 7-years-olds. But CALPIRG says the dinosaur collects your child's name, birthday, gender as well your address, payment information and other sensitive data.
"Not only is that creepy, this Dino is collecting all that information, but it makes your child and family more vulnerable to a hack or a breach," said Jenn Engstrom, CALPIRG's state director.
Even toys like the Amazmic Kids Karaoke bluetooth microphone are labeled as serious privacy risk by CALPIRG. Researchers found that it can allow anyone to listen to and talk with your child even from outside a child's home.
The group also does not recommend the Meta Quest Virtual Reality headset for children.
"It's just not worth the risk right now," said Rachel Franz of the child advocacy group FairPlay. "This technology is too new for us to trust our children with it."
FairPlay says, aside from privacy issues, it fears the headsets can stunt child development, and the group criticized Meta for dropping its VR age threshold from 13 years old to 10 just in time for the holiday shopping season.
"We recommend that Santa forgets them in his sleigh this holiday season," Franz said.
Meta responded to the report with this statement: "We are committed to creating safe, positive experiences for young people on Meta Quest 3, and have collaborated with youth safety experts to help ensure an age-appropriate experience for teens and preteens on the Quest platform. Parents must set up parent-managed Meta accounts for 10-12 year olds and they control what apps their preteen can use."
Low-tech toys that pose dangers as well, like water beads that expand when they get wet and pose a choking hazard.
"If a child swallows this bead, it can then expand in their body and block their airway or jam into the digestive tract," Engstrom said.
The entire Trouble in Toyland report can be found here.