Could AI teddy bears be here put your kids at risk?


June 30, 2023 | 12:03

In the not-so-distant future, you might come across a teddy bear reading a bedtime story to your child. And it wouldn’t be just any story, it would be a tailor-made saga anything the toy knows about your child, including likes, dislikes, and even their deepest secrets.

Back in the 80s and 90s, Teddy Ruxpin and Furbys were creepy, but they have nothing in the rapidly growing world of AI-powered smart toys to come.

We’re bound to see a slew of AI-powered ChatGPT toys hit the scene this holiday season.

By the time kids start asking for them, you’ll already know it’s not all fun and games.

Not your average stuffed animal

Imagine a toy that learns all about your child.

Your baby can hold entire conversations with the toy and will respond in full sentences. The more your child talks to the toy, the smarter he becomes.

That’s what VTech CEO and toymaker Allan Wong is betting on the company’s future on a line of AI teddy bears. He says the interactive soft toys will offer parents an alternative to traditional bedtime story rituals.

Kim Komando shares that children’s toys will soon be powered by artificial intelligence.
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These AI-powered bears would use chatbot-style technology to create personalized narratives.

They can dissuade a child from a tantrum, entertain him and teach him lessons. Without a doubt, your child will form a real bond with this toy.

Going well beyond basic information, I’m willing to bet that these toys can also collect school and home locations and sensitive data about mom and dad.

While the concept is innovative, the same privacy concerns that plague smart devices for adults apply to these new gadgets for kids.

Whenever a toy has logging capabilities, data is often collected, stored, and shared with third-party buyers.

Kim Komando

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Remember Hello Barbie?

In 2015, this Wi-Fi-enabled doll was the forerunner of AI toys. Recorded, collected and saved summons. The significant invasion of privacy and security risk was one thing.

But there were also concerns about how the logged data could be used for marketing purposes. Its maker, Mattel, was sued and made changes to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

While it may be nice for children to be able to talk to their toys, they also collect a lot of personal information.
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Keep the game private

It’s impractical to try to avoid AI toys altogether, as they are quickly becoming a household norm. But how can you make sure you and your family are safe?

  • Disable things like cameras and chat features if possible.
  • Enable all parental controls on toys.
  • Always read the privacy policy of gadgets.
  • Make sure there is a way to reset the toy to erase its capabilities and memory. Take these steps if your child stops using it.

However, I would try to convince your child that there is something more interesting than an AI toy. Maybe it’s not so bad to step on Legos all the time.

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