Interactive toys raise concerns over children’s privacy

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – There’s nothing new about kids talking to their toys. Some toys even talk back.

But the latest interactive toys are taking that to a new level.

Mattel’s popular new “Hello Barbie” doll uses Wi-Fi and speech recognition technology to interact with a child.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

Effectively, the doll records what the child says, analyzes it, and responds accordingly.

However, some privacy advocates are wondering who’s listening to what your little ones are saying.

Dr. Syb Brown teaches journalism and digital citizenship at Belmont University.

“As soon as I see the word ‘interactive,’ my antenna goes up,” Brown said.

Dr. Brown says interactive toys raise concerns about children’s privacy.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

“There are several concerns. Who’s capturing the initial voice? Who collects that data and who owns it? Because just because I have it, I may sell it,” said Brown.

Some privacy advocates also worry that interactive toys will be used for advertising to kids.

For example, if a new Barbie movie is released, what’s to stop Mattel from using the doll to plug the movie to kids?

ToyTalk, the company that created the “Hello Barbie” technology, says on its website, “We do not use the recordings or their content to contact children or to advertise to them.”

But the audio recordings are shared with third party websites for research and development.

Ultimately, the world we live in is more digital every day, so parents need to do their research before buying and use parental controls when available.

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