Hello barbie is a common connected toy for children. Hello barbie is a common connected toy for children. With the proliferation of connected devices and the internet of things (IoT) comes concern from researchers at Edith Cowan University, who are preparing a three-year investigation into the similar world of connected toys.

Considered a subset of the IoT, the internet of toys consists of connected devices, such as My Friend Cayla and Hello Barbie, which collect and share data about their users — in this instance children.

Among the information collected from such toys might be voice files of conversations a child has with his or her toys, as well as demographic information like a child’s location or his or her birthday.

Professor Lelia Green, who is on the ECU team, explained, "[Children] love playing with technology, but they are too young to realise the implications of data and data privacy. Parents haven't really had a chance to think about [the implications of] this. They accept a lot of privacy implications with their daily mobile phone use and maybe don't think this is substantially different."

While adults are likely aware of the data sharing resulting from electronic device use, Professor Green cautions that children are not.

"Children are very confiding and trusting when talking about their life to their toys."

Likewise, parents might not be aware of how this information is used, possibly to better market products or develop product placement strategies.

The research team, led by Donnell Holloway, will observe eight Australian families and nine European families as they interact with Cozmo, a connected toy provided to the families for the study. This will help researchers determine how children and adults understand data from connected toys is gathered and used. Over time, participating children will be asked about their thoughts and experiences with the toys.

The results are expected to be available in 2021 at the completion of the study.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com