We live in a dangerous world, and unfortunately, that’s still true when it comes to kids toys.
As much as parents and guardians want to believe that the latest kid gadgets or low-cost electronics filling stores and online marketplaces are always safe for little ones, that’s not always the case. The influx of low-cost toys to online marketplaces in particular has driven manufacturers to produce these items for as little as possible. What this means is that sellers sometimes offer “safe enough” toys for low prices. Yet, in tens of thousands of cases, “safe enough” is not safe enough and ends with injury caused by dangerous toys.
According to the 2021 annual Trouble in Toyland report, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has documented that “U.S. hospital emergency departments treated between 226,000 and 254,000 children with toy-related injuries every year” across the past five years. In another tragic report from the nonprofit Kids in Danger, 38 children died from defective products in 2019, Those figures are troubling enough, not to mention that the vast majority of these kinds of incidents likely go unreported.
The report Trouble in Toyland report notes that we could see an increase across 2020-21, “because kids are spending more time at home, and more of it with less supervision by work-at-home parents.”
While packaging may be flashy and hard-to-believe bargains are tough to pass up, there’s a real and dangerous cost to unregulated and unsafe kids products. The holidays are just around the corner, and holiday shopping is projected to start early this year; that’s why it’s more important than ever for consumers to know what’s what when it comes to toy safety for kids.
What To Watch Out for in Kids Toys
Safety considerations for kids toys can fall into several key categories that consumers should know, some of which have changed rapidly as toys become more technologically advanced. The most common and important factors to consider in kids toys revolve around chemical, electrical, mechanical, and data dangers.
Material and Chemical Dangers:
Kids toys in particular are a place to be the most cautious of material and chemical dangers. This is partly due to a history of unsafe materials being used in kids toy manufacturing in order to reduce the product costs. But it also has to do with kids' vulnerability, as kids tend to lick or put things in their mouths and are more susceptible to health impacts of dangerous chemicals.
Leading chemical dangers in toys often involve dangerous substances like lead, carcinogenic materials as Phthalats, and chemicals that can be harmful if swallowed or ingested or comes into contact with the skin.
As electrical elements become staples of leading kids toys (think music players, wearable devices, robotics, and more), ensuring that your kids toys are certified to be electrically safe is critical.
A 2020 CNN report highlighted the dangers that exist when this isn’t the case. The review found at least 1,500 examples, across more than 70 items, of “products exploding, catching on fire, smoking, melting, causing electrical malfunctions or otherwise posing risks.” The most shocking thing? These products were all a part of Amazon’s growing inventory of private label products called AmazonBasics.
While some suppliers of these goods declare that they have passed strict electronic safety tests and might even show certifications logos on their product, many of these products have never been tested nor certified, which means certifications claimed by some brands or vendors might be false.
For kids, small parts or sharp objects create safety concerns that simply wouldn’t be an issue for adult devices. While all kids toys are required to have minimum size requirements for loose parts to prevent choking, this directive is not always followed by manufacturers. A Journal of Pediatrics study found that since the 1990s, emergency room visits for kids as a result of swallowing objects has more than doubled. Material dangers to look out for most commonly include things like choking hazards from small components or deceptively sharp toy edges.
Kids Data Privacy Dangers
Data privacy is an area of growing concern as the exploding marketing for IoT (internet of things) devices expands to kids electronics. As more inexpensive kids devices allow for location tracking, personal information storage, and more, it’s critical for consumers to understand the implications.
In 1998 congress passed a key piece of legislation called the Child Online Privacy Protection Act - generally referred to as COPPA. The law was designed to protect children’s data and prevent danger from predators online or companies seeking to target or profit from children’s data. However, compliance with COPPA has been spotty, even for large companies. The list of major companies that have been found in violation of COPPA over the years is troubling, including the likes of Matel and Hasbro, VTech, YouTube, and TikTok (formerly Music.ly).
Certified Safe: The Most Important Safety Certifications for Safe Kids Toys
When shopping for kids toys this holiday season, safety certifications are the gold standard. This proves a company has actually prioritized your and your kids’ safety! To procure the leading certifications, a company must:
The investment is significant as it requires an increase in time for product development and higher unit cost for production with higher quality and safer materials. And it’s exactly what consumers need to look for in products - especially if they come from third party sellers on marketplaces like Amazon.
But the world of safety certifications can also be confusing. What should you look for and what do certifications mean? Fear not - we have the answers for you! Read on for everything a concerned parent needs to know about the leading safety certifications for kids toys:
But the world of safety certifications can also be confusing. What should you look for and what do certifications mean? Below is your one-stop shop for everything a concerned parent or guardian needs to know about the leading requirements and certifications for safe kids toys. These are the gold standards to keep in mind for peace of mind:
1) Child Product Certificate (CPC) Testing & Compliance (EN71 and ASTM (F963) Compliance)
- > What it is: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the U.S. requires CPC certification from third party testing for any children’s products sold in the U.S. Testing standards required by law are based on EN71 and ASTM - these are essentially equivalent and internationally recognized toy safety standards that represent the true “gold standard” in safe children’s products.
- > Why it matters: While CPC is not a seal that will appear on a children’s product, any company looking to sell children’s products in the U.S. or Europe must comply with these standards and undergo approved third party testing. Leading approved laboratories for this kind of comprehensive compliance testing include UL (Underwriter Laboratories) and SGS, which consumers can look for when shopping this holiday season.
2) SAR: Specific Absorption Rate
- > What it is: SAR is an important safety certification for any wireless toys emitting radio frequencies (RF), such as cell phones or walkie talkies. This test measures the rate at which radio frequency energy is absorbed by the human body.
- > Why it matters: This test is mandatory in the U.S. and ensures compliance with FCC regulations to ensure your kid’s toy doesn’t emit dangerous radio waves that can harm the body’s cellular balance. For any signal-based kids toys like smartwatches, bluetooth devices, walkie talkies or etc., be sure to look for SAR certification.
3) FCC: Federal Communications Commission
- > What it is: The FCC certification mark is mandatory in the U.S. for electronic equipment and electronics that are manufactured or sold in the States. This important seal certifies that an electrical product complies with standards of the Federal Communications Commission regarding electromagnetic interference.
- > Why it matters: This certification is mandatory for most all kids electronics toys, meaning it’s critical for consumers to be on the lookout for, especially when shopping online for low-cost electronics that may be manufactured overseas.
4) CEC: California Energy Commission
- > What it is: CEC certification is a test to ensure compliance with California Energy Commission Regulations. According to testing and certification provider TOBY, “The purpose of the implementation of the regulations is to improve the efficiency of electric products, saving energy, reducing emissions and greenhouse effect.”
- > Why it matters: CEC certification shows a company has gone “above and beyond” to ensure that their product is not only safe for kids but safe for our world and environment.
5) RoHS: Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive
- > What it is: ROHS is a mandatory European Directive aimed at reducing hazardous e-waste. According to the European Commission, “This Directive lays down rules on the restriction of the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) with a view to contributing to the protection of human health and the environment, including the environmentally sound recovery and disposal of waste EEE.”
- > Why it matters: Once again, this certification goes a long way to showing a company’s ethical and environmentally conscious practices - even if it is not required in the U.S. This gives consumers extra confidence in both the quality of the product and the company as well.
6) CB Scheme
- > What it is: The CB Scheme is an international program established and operated by the International Electrotechnical Commission for Electrical Equipment (IECEE) covering electrical and electronic equipment, mainly regarding battery standard and chemical content. This program provides proof of compliance across over 50 countries worldwide.
- > What it matters: CB Scheme certification is important to ensure the quality and safety of a toy’s electrical circuit and the battery. It is yet another layer of confidence for consumers, knowing that the product in their child’s hands is certified safe in countries worldwide - not just the U.S.
7) CE Certification:
- > What it is: CE marking is a legal requirement that allows for free trade of products within the EU/EEA. It is a mandatory marking that shows a manufacturer’s product complies with the minimum product health, safety, and environmental requirements of all EU directives.
- > Why it matters: CE certification covers a wide range of electronics and material safety standards and certifications across countries in the EU. Seeing this certification once again shows a company selling in the U.S. has gone “above and beyond” to ensure consumer safety by global standards.
- > What it is: “IP” stands for “Ingress Protection” and is a certification that ensures a product is resistant to water and dust. For kids toys, this is particularly relevant from a durability and use standpoint.
- > Why it matters: If your kids are like most kids, they have a way of getting things dirty! Seeing IP67 gives consumers confidence that a kids product has been tested for basic durability and can stand up to a reasonable amount of exposure to water and other particles.
9) COPPA Compliance
- > What it is: COPPA compliance, while not a single specific certification, is critically important for consumers of connected kids devices. This U.S. regulatory law applies to devices such as kids smart watches, cell phones, apps, GPS trackers, or any other data-collecting, connected devices. In order to be COPPA compliant, a company must:
- Ensure parental consent for any resulting data collection
- Protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information collected from children
COSMO’s Commitment to Safety
COSMO’s Product Development Manager Barak Rigbi knows this firsthand. With over 20 years of manufacturing and product quality experience, selling to and managing strict safety standards with big retailers such as Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Toy R’ Us, Barak oversaw every step of the JrTrack 2 development, and it’s full range of testing for safety certifications. Despite it’s exploding popularity, the kids smartwatch industry currently has no set safety standards. COSMO’s commitment to safety means taking the lead to define above and beyond safety standards for the industry.
“Any product we design starts with safety and reliability,” says Rigbi. “So we spent over a year designing and engineering the entire electronics, mechanical, material and digital functions of the JrTrack 2. As a father, I have zero tolerance when it comes to the safety of our kids!”
Rigbi personally oversaw the testing and certification process for an extensive array of international standards of certifications to ensure that COSMO’s device meets the highest demands, both in the US and abroad.
“We spent eight months defining and completing our full slate of gold-standard certifications,” he explains, “we’re proud to ensure our device is electronically safe, uses safe materials, and will be reliable. It’s what kids and families deserve, and they shouldn’t settle for anything less.”