VIDEO: Are high-tech toys too easily hacked?

Posted at 4:41 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 23:32:43-05

Tech toys are one of the fastest growing sectors in the toy industry. They talk, chirp, beep and even blink all by connecting to the Internet. But that access could be exposing your children's personal information.

Hackers hit popular electronic gaming company VTech in November. More than 10 million online accounts were stolen, including more than 6 million children profiles.

Jennifer Wayman, a parent from Raytown, is concerned.

"It's very scary, especially that this breach has put parents and kids both at risk," explained Wayman.

The new Wi-Fi-enabled Hello Barbie, priced at about $75, is being criticized as risky. Mattel and tech company Toytalk created the high-tech toy. With the push of a button on her belt, she listens and responds to your kids over the Wi-Fi smartphone app. The conversations between "Barbie" and your child are stored in the cloud. The companies say parents can delete them at any time.

Lauren Wahlen has a 9-year-old daughter and believes it’s important for to stay up to date on technology. 

"That's why parents are going to have to wise up and the tech companies that are creating these toys are definitely going to have to step up their game,” said Whalen.

The VTech hack hit its online learning app called The Learning Lodge. Parents can register their children with the app to customize and update their gadgets. Hackers stole names, birthdays, genders and profile images of kids.

Tech expert Burton Kelso explained, "It's always possible that predators can connect directly with your children with these smart devices."

VTech just relaunched The Learning Lodge two weeks ago with new terms, apologizing for the security breach and assuring parents it’s plugged the security holes.

A 21-year-old man in England has been arrested in connection with the VTech hack.

That’s not enough for some moms.

"We're paying outrageous money for these toys, the extra added security, peace of mind for parents should be in place," argued Wayman.

Mattel and Toytalk maintain they've taken steps to improve and ensure safety of Hello Barbie.

What can parents do?

Here are some steps parents can take to limit their children’s exposure to hackers of high-tech toys.

  • Learn the capabilities of toys. Is it Wi-Fi equipped? Is Wi-Fi enabled?
  • Limit sharing your children's info when registering the toys.
  • Play offline when possible.
  • Most important, tech experts tell parents, is to read everything, including the fine print when registering your child’s toy. 


Mike Marusarz can be reached at

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