By Maisie Andrews-Garth
PARENTS HAVE been warned that a popular present on this year’s Christmas list could be a threat to their child’s security.
Interactive toys like the Furby Connect allow children to interact with the toy through the app via a Bluetooth connection but the consumer organisation Which? says it that makes it easy for anyone within a 38ft range to link to the toy.
Child safety experts fear this means strangers could link directly to the toy and speak to the child as there is no filter on who is connecting.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services said: “Safety and security should be the absolute priority with any toy. If that can’t be guaranteed, then the products should not be sold.”
Lisa Clay from Armadillo Toys, Chapel Allerton, Leeds said: “We don’t sell this kind of toy I’m afraid. It is everything we are not.
“We feel that these toys are not the toys that will be picked up and still played with after a week.”
The Hasbro website advertises the toy with interactive features like games to feed the animal, name it and watch it remember its name and grow a virtual ‘Furbling Village’.
Which?, on behalf of Context IS, said that any device like a mobile, tablet or a laptop could connect to the Furby toy leaving even more opportunities – positive and negative to control the toy.
An Argos spokesperson said: “The safety of the products we sell is extremely important to us. Our customers have not raised any concerns about this product but we are in close contact with Hasbro.”
Rachel Lazenby, 19 of Trenic Drive, Headingley, Leeds said: “I wanted to buy the toy for my five-year-old cousin but saw a lot of bad publicity online. He was heartbroken when I told him Santa wouldn’t bring him one but it was certainly for the best.”
Which? Magazine has been campaigning for 50 years to make children’s toys safer, starting with the use of lead-based paint in toys.
A press release about the toy says: “Some 50 years on and we feel unsecured connected toys pose a different, but equally important risk to children.”
Sara Gordon, a member of the Leedsface Facebook page said: “I don’t believe any toy aimed at young children should have the ability to leave them open to such dangers. I know technology has moved on but not always in the best and safest way.”
Which? is campaigning to get the toys removed from the shelves and said that other countries are beginning to act on unsafe connectivity toys and in the UK they would like the Government to follow suit.
Toy company Hasbro, manufacturer of the Furby Connect, said children’s privacy was a top priority.
A spokesperson said: “While the researchers at Which? identified ways to manipulate the Furby Connect toy, we believe that doing so would require close proximity to the toy.
“There are a number of very specific conditions that would all need to be satisfied in order to achieve the result described by the researchers at Which? including reengineering the toy, creating new firmware, and then updating the firmware, which requires being within Bluetooth range while it is in a ‘woke’ state.
“We feel confident in the way we have designed both the toy and the app to deliver a secure play experience.”