Cybersecurity, choking hazards top dangerous toys list

- With Black Friday fast approaching, the Florida Consumer Action Network released a list of toys parents should be cautious of buying as they hit the stores.

The annual Trouble in Toyland Report shows researchers are concerned about data-collecting toys that connect to the internet and could end up sharing a child's personal information online.

A doll called My Friend Cayla, sold at Walmart and Kohl's, was used as an example during a conference following the report's release on Tuesday.

"This doll has been banned in Germany for privacy violations," said Susan McGrath, Executive Director of the Florida Consumer Action Network.

Through her microphone and Bluetooth connection, Cayla listens to children talk and allows them to ask questions. The doll searchers for answers online to form its response.

It then asks the child questions and stores their responses online.

Some toys with microphones can record and collect conversations and information, such as the child's name, school, likes, dislikes," explained McGrath.

Cayla's Bluetooth is unsecured, meaning a hacker could connect to the doll.

In July, the FBI issued a warning to parents to consider cybersecurity before bringing toys like Cayla or data-collecting children's watches into their homes.

Toys with small parts are also a concern this year, according to doctors at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

"Magnets are particularly worrisome, batteries are particularly worrisome, and of course, any inhaled object that is small," said Dr. Jen Arnold, a neonatologist.

When magnets enter the stomach they can stick together, bind the intestines and cause an obstruction that could require surgery.

Dr. Arnold suggested that parents with small children should steer clear of music-playing cards with small batteries that could be pulled out, toys with small pegs and dice, and balloons that can be swallowed and create a choking hazard.

"We're very careful that none of the eyes are removable on stuffed animals. Everything has to be pretty secure," said Courtney Johnson, the mother of a young daughter. "She puts everything in her mouth."

"It's just another layer of trying to keep your child safe, making sure that the toys that they're playing with are OK to use," said Ashley Perry, a first-time mother of a 6-month-old.

Doctors said a good indicator for parents to know if a toy is choking hazard is to see if it's small enough to fit through a toilet paper roll. A toy item that can easily fit through the hole of a toilet paper roll can also be swallowed by a young child.

To see what other toys made the list of this year's Trouble in Toyland Report, visit https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/cpn/USN-112117-A1-REPORT/trouble-in-toyland-32.html

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