2023’s “Naughty” Holiday Gift Guide: Protecting Your Kids from Dangerous Tech Toys

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With Christmas just days away, parents are on the hunt for the perfect gifts to delight their children. However, in this digital age, it's crucial to stay informed about potential safety and privacy concerns associated with some of the season's most popular tech toys. ParentsTogether, a nonprofit parent advocacy group, has released their 2023 holiday gift guide titled "The Naughty List: Tech Toys that Spy, Steal, and Shock." This guide provides valuable information to help parents make informed choices and ensure their children's safety.

And don’t worry—if you’ve already purchased one of these hot toys, we’ve got tips to help you and your kids use them safely.

Mothers at the Capitol to speak with lawmakers about kid safety online in October 2022.

Mothers at the Capitol to speak with lawmakers about kid safety online in October 2022.
Image: Eric Kayne, ParentsTogether

Top concerning tech toys

  1. Meta Quest 3: This virtual reality headset has expanded its target age from 13 to 10+. While it offers over 250 games, it also exposes children to potential dangers. Users can interact with strangers, including in chats, private rooms, and games, which may expose them to adult content and potential predators.
  2. Amazon Echo Dot Kids: Amazon has been in hot water for privacy concerns, potential exposure to inappropriate content, and in-app purchases.
  3. Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses: These smart glasses may look like regular eyewear, but they come with a built-in camera and a five-microphone system for live streaming on social media, messaging, making calls, and using Meta's AI features. Unless disabled during setup, they continuously track the wearer's location and have an always-listening microphone.
  4. KidiBuzz 3 Smart Device: Marketed towards kids aged four to nine, this device resembles a regular phone. However, it offers access to features that may not be suitable for young children. VTech, the manufacturer, has faced fines from the Federal Trade Commission for collecting kids' personal information.
  5. Roblox gift cards for “Robux:” After grabbing headlines earlier this year for a Robox-related kidnapping, the company is still under scrutiny after testers at ParentsTogether found that “default settings on [accounts] are set to the least private option. Accounts for kids as young as 7 automatically permit strangers to engage in text chat with them, display content and experiences rated 13+, and have all parental approvals and controls deactivated.”
“The guide isn’t a ‘what not to buy’ list. No toy or device that connects to the internet can be made completely safe because tech companies haven’t designed their products with children’s safety in mind. Instead, our goal is to help parents learn what dangers might be associated with certain toys and how to keep kids of all ages safer while they play,” said Shelby Knox, Campaign Director at ParentsTogether.

The naughty list guide: Protecting your kids

The "Naughty List" guide is a comprehensive resource that details the components of various tech toys categorized by age group. It offers parents advisories about the potential dangers these gifts pose, such as privacy concerns, health risks, addictiveness, exposure to inappropriate content, and contact with predators. Notably, the guide doesn't aim to discourage buying toys but instead educates parents about the potential risks so they can make informed decisions.

“As we approach the holiday season, parents are starting to think about what gifts to buy their children, and with kids spending so much time online between school and play, tech products are inevitably coming up,” said Knox. “We want to make sure that parents are equipped with the information they need to keep their kids safe and informed, as we’ve seen time and time again that we can’t trust huge tech companies that put profit before safety.”

Tips to protect your children

Here are some key tips from the "Naughty List" guide to protect your children when considering tech toys:

  • Research before you buy: Get to know a toy's features and potential risks before purchasing it.
  • Set up parental controls: Explore and activate parental controls and privacy settings to limit your child's exposure to potential dangers.
  • Disable, restrict, or apply password protection to chat functions and friend requests.
  • Talk to your kids: Engage in open and honest conversations with your children about responsible internet use and the potential dangers they may encounter.
  • Monitor usage: Regularly review your child's use of tech toys and keep an eye on their online interactions.
  • Check for updates: Ensure the toy's software and security features are up-to-date.
  • Use safe alternatives: Consider safe alternatives or educational toys that promote learning and creativity without the potential dangers of connected devices.

This holiday season, make sure that your children's safety and privacy are a top priority. Use the "Naughty List" guide as a valuable resource to help you navigate the world of tech toys and ensure a safe and joyful holiday season for your family.

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Disclaimer: Portions of this article were assisted by automation technology. All content therein has been augmented, thoroughly edited, and fact-checked by our in-house editorial staff of human safety experts.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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