Questions to Ask Before Buying a Connected Toy

November 25, 2015

When my parents purchased me the talking Michelle Tanner doll (Full House) in the early 1990s the only thing they had to be concerned about was how quickly they would become annoyed by my doll chanting “You Got It, Dude,” every time I pushed on her belly. Upon purchase the only question my mom might have needed to ask the sales associate was, “How easily can we remove the battery?”

Flash forward to 2015 and a whole new kind of of talking doll is on the market: Hello Barbie, and she does a whole lot more then spit out catch phrases. She is connected to the internet, so basically she has a brain. She can formulate answers and remember what you say, downloading and storing the information on a cloud. And Barbie isn’t the only connected toy on the market, creating a need for parents to ask a lot more than just “can we remove the battery?” when purchasing gifts this season.

But what else should you be asking? What do parents need to know and understand about these connected toys, smartphones, watches, tablets, etc before purchasing them? One of the best things you can do before buying your child a connected toy or device is conduct some basic research online about the product.

The first thing you should do is visit the device’s website and find out exactly what the device or toy will allow your child to do. If the site has demo videos, watch them. Read the terms of use and privacy policy. These documents will explain to you exactly what is being done with data collected during use of the devices, how to set privacy settings and the appropriate age for use. Check out what other parents are saying by reading product reviews, and make sure to check the reviews on multiple pages (i.e., etc.).

Also, research whether the connected device has parental controls and learn how to set them. There are a ton of “how to” videos on YouTube that give great detailed descriptions on how to set and use parental controls.

Another good resource is the sales associate. If you are making the purchase at an actual store, ask someone in the tech department about the device. If you still have questions ask to speak to a manager or for any material they may have on the item.

Use the list of questions below as a guide when shopping for a tech related gift this holiday season. Before purchasing a connected toy for your child you should have answers to all of the questions below and feel confident in the quality of your answers.

  • Does the toy connected to the Internet?
  • What are the privacy settings for the device?
  • Where does the data go? Who can view it?
  • Can I have access to the data?
  • How long is the data saved for? and Where is it saved?
  • What age is this toy/device intended for?
  • Does it use Wifi?
  • Does it allow password protected settings?
  • Can my child talk to strangers with this device?

Connected toys and devices have the potential to make really great gifts when researched properly. It may seem time consuming or a lot of information to digest, but as my Michelle Tanner doll would say “You Got it, Dude!”

Written by

Augusta Nissly

Augusta is the Program Coordinator for FOSI's Good Digital Parenting. In this role, Augusta uses her creative vision to help build awareness and grow the audience of GDP. She manages all of the social media accounts and assists in content creation and management.

Augusta graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in Communications: Public Relations and also minored in English: Print Journalism. Previously, Augusta managed social media accounts and online content for a D.C./Baltimore based law firm.