No, smart toys are not safe for children, and for two main reasons – radiation and privacy.
EMR (electromagnetic radiation) is present in all “smart” devices, smart toys included, and it is quite harmful to young ones as their bodies and minds are still small and fragile. In addition, there have been reports of privacy issues with cameras and microphones of some smart toys over the years, therefore smart toys are not always the smartest buy.
Let’s go a bit more into details.
The technological process affects the nature around us, gifts and toys included. In the shoes left by the excited little ones – the jump ropes, balls, dolls, and strollers of yesteryear have given way to video games, tablets, and toys equipped with artificial intelligence and WiFi connection. This, in itself, has nothing wrong, as kids will be attracted to flashy and cool toys, even though we adults look at them with a dose of skepticism. But this does not prevent parents from being vigilant with the dangers that these smart toys can hide, in particular regarding the electromagnetic radiation and privacy of our children.
What are Smart Toys/Tech Toys?
New toys blur the line between classic toys and computers, between play and learning. At World Toy Fair, representatives of manufacturers from all over the world promoted their projects and it seems that more and more companies want to make the toy of the future today.
When devising new, “smart” toys, designers are slowly blurring the line between classic toys and computers, as well as between games and learning. One of the directions that are popular in making toys of the future is the incorporation of the “brain” of toys that young children are proven to love. Even though it is over eighty years old, the good old Teddy Bear still holds up well.
Of course, age and fashion take their toll on looks, so Teddy can look like everything – from dinosaurs to cartoon characters. Some may say that the stuffed dinosaur is definitely not a Teddy Bear, but when you look at a child sleeping peacefully next to their favorite toy, you will see a scene that was created only with the appearance of the first teddy bear.
Until now, playing and communicating with such dolls has relied on the child’s imagination, and child psychologists see this as an opportunity for its development. Designers see this as an opportunity to create new toys that will enable children to talk to their toys and that will introduce them to home computers at an early age. The pioneers in making this type of new toy are the giants who can afford to develop products in a new direction. There are “Mattel”, the world’s largest toy manufacturer, and “Microsoft”, a giant in its field.
Do Smart Toys/Tech Toys emit radiation?
Unfortunately, yes, smart toys emit EMR due to their connectivity properties. As smart toys are electrically-based, and more importantly, able to be connected to the internet and operated via various devices, they will emit EMF. While all of this is fun and cool, a child should not be exposed to EMF-radiating devices. Why?
Electromagnetic radiation is dangerous to human beings, especially kids who are developing incredibly fast. Their bodies and minds are still underdeveloped and thus more exposed to harm. EMR is one such harm that can leave long-lasting consequences on our children.
People should be aware of some devices that have become fashionable lately, such as Amazon’s “Echo” smart speakers that communicate with the “Alexa” voice assistant. Already in December 2018, there was a cybersecurity incident in Germany due to a user having access to more than 1,700 recordings of others, with enough information to be able to identify and contact them. Far from solving the problem, in April 2019 it became known that Amazon employees in charge of improving the listening algorithm have access to recorded conversations through these devices, and may even know their geolocation.
But apart from this, these toys and any other that is connected to the network (the internet) is susceptible to being hacked. This happened last December in the United States when a hacker accessed the security camera in Alyssa’s room, an 8-year-old girl, in the LeMay family home, through which he played the song “Tiptoe Through The Tulips”, which stopped being heard when the little girl arrived in the room, to say “I’m Santa Claus. I’m your best friend”.
How Do You Know If a Toy Is EMF Free?
Where there are electronic devices, there is also electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is the name for the energy that electromagnetic waves transmit through space. This type of radiation creates something around us that we call EMF – an electromagnetic field, and this field is emitted by many electrical devices that we use.
The moment your child connects their tablet or mobile phone (or rather any device) to Wi-Fi, an additional form of EMF radiation called radiofrequency, or RF radiation is emitted. It is a form of energy transmission via radio waves. RF signals are measured in volts per meter (V/m), transmitted at many different frequencies and different intensities.
And yet it doesn’t seem so scary. The long-term consequences show up much later, in the years to come. We do not see them now, so it is difficult for us to take them seriously to the extent that it is necessary.
Cancer as a consequence of using Wi-Fi is just one in a series of possible consequences. Of course, we all know how devastating cancer can be so, naturally, that should be avoided at all costs. For more details about cancer prevention caused by radiation, check this link.
The list of ways in which the use of electronic devices affects the health of us and our children is much longer. Studies show that RF electromagnetic radiation emitted by Wi-Fi devices can also lead to degenerative diseases, lower testosterone levels, accelerated cell death, all caused by tissue heating and oxidative stress.
Here are just some of the problems associated with the radiation that surrounds us:
- sleep disorders;
- concentration problems;
- behavioral disorders.
Popular Smart Toys for your Child
Barbie has been with us forever and now it is new and improved. Mattel’s Hello Barbie can now communicate! There are a microphone and speaker inside the Barbie, as well as prerecorded answers to many questions a kid can ask. Your son or daughter can now communicate with a Barbie doll.
A bit older kids can enjoy full technological perks with Echo Dot smart speaker. This speaker has a built-in Alexa that can help kids out with various tasks, such as morning alarms, answering questions, and helping with school.
It’s the 21st century and programing is the hottest job right now. The Dash Robot is a toy that will help kids with programming – the robot teaches programming codes and can be programmed with such codes. The toy can also do various tasks when programed.
The Best Alternatives To Smart Toys: EMF Free Toys
Luckily, we still have toys that do not emit EMF (toys that don’t connect to the internet and don’t use wireless connections). Simple toys such as balls, Montessori Toys, Music instruments, Lego, dolls, even some battery-operated toys like toy cars and speaking dolls.
These are our favorites:
Toys for toddlers from 9 months old:
The Harvest Game is a toy classic – it provides fundamental mental and motoric skill improvements to toddlers. The toy is colorful, which will immediately grab the child’s attention, but also fun and educative. Put an object into a corresponding shape – a classic game that even older kids can benefit from.
An equivalent to Lego toys – let your kids link several parts into one and create different shapes and objects. The good thing about Wooden Balance Blocks is that it is quite colorful, can go upright for a while, but also can be placed on a surface for various shapes.
Music is an unavoidable part of life. Whether you are a toddler or a granny/grandpa, music is all around us and we all enjoy it. For kids, music is an exploration and such toys have always had great value. When a kid produces a sound on a triangle, xylophone, or synth, the delight on its face is one of a kind, and these toys provide just that.
STEM Toys For 5+ Years Old Kids: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths
Science Box for Kids – Uncle Jungo Toys – Crystal Growing Kit
Science-based toys are great for our smart little ones and the Crystal Growing Kit can be of great use. The kids will apply scientific methods to grow crystals and while this may seem challenging, there is an instruction manual to help out. The kid will start reading and solving problems on their own which will lead to better independence and cognitive development.
Dino Soap Lab – Dan&Darci
Speaking of science projects, another one comes from Dan&Darci and it’s about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are always fun and help kids get interested in things that are not considered everyday. These are colorful as well and should be maintained in a specific and scientific way.
Building Planks Set Out of Wood – Brain Blox – Wooden Building Blocks
A bit advanced building set that activates both imagination and cognitive capabilities. The Wooden Building Blocks include fields of architecture, mechanics, engineering, physics, and maths. The child will have fun creating various objects while also learning about these subjects.
Last but not least, Lego has been around for ages and is arguably the most popular toy company of all time. Lego comes in many forms and shapes and children can build pretty much anything. One of the most positive sides of Lego is that it’s suitable for both boys and girls of all ages and interests.
Faced with this situation, there would be the option of trying to abstract from reality and ignore technological toys, which does not seem to have much to do given the times we live in. Another option is to take a series of precautions to try to limit the risks that entail, such as the following:
- Make sure that the toy is suitable for the child’s age and maturity.
- Change passwords when acquired and periodically thereafter.
- Disconnect it when not in use with the total off button.
- In the event that it is necessary to install an app from the manufacturer, select what information is going to be shared, as well as install the successive updates, as they must incorporate privacy improvements.
- Supervise the minors while they play, especially regarding the images and audios that they share.
- Before disposing of the toy, make a complete erasure of its memory.
Or, quite simply, buy traditional toys that can be both fun and educational. Yes, flashy and modern is cool, but instead of spending hundreds of dollars on just one cool toy, you can buy your child a roomful of toys to play with for years.