So far, you may be thinking that all the news is bad. Well fear not! Despite the many safety concerns that fill the kids electronics marketplace, there are steps
any consumer can take to spot the bad apples and keep kids and families safe with quality products.
a. Overview of Certifications: What Consumers Need to Know
When shopping for kids toys this holiday season, safety certifications are the gold standard. This proves a company has actually prioritized your and your
child's safety! To procure the certifications required by U.S. law, a company must submit products to credible third-party agencies for testing, pay substantial
fees, and pass rigorous testing covering material, mechanical, electrical, and chemical safety standards. In the U.S., this means complying with the standards
laid out in ASTM (F963), an internationally recognized, comprehensive set of toy safety standards that was adopted as the basis for U.S. regulation in 2009.
For companies to test and prove compliance with these standards requires significant investment, from increased time for product development to cost for
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? Below is your one-stop shop for
everything a concerned parent or guardian needs to know about the leading safety requirements and certifications for kids toys
When shopping for toys or electronics for your kids, these certifications are the gold
standards to keep in mind for peace of mind:
b. The 4-Step Consumer Check for Spotting Safe Kids Electronics
In the famous Sherlock Holmes detective stories, the inimitable sleuth is famous for saying "Elementary, my dear Watson" when asked how he solved the case. To some extent, solving the case of toy safety is the same.
Does the product listing claim or demonstrate certifications? Does the listing appear low quality with poor images or confusing descriptions? Can you find a company website related to the brand? How about any customer service contact information? These are the simple kinds of questions that are actually incredibly effective in weeding out the bad apples.
We’ve developed the following 4-step approach to help any consumer spot the devices to avoid and have confidence that they're bringing home family-safe products for their kids.
1. Know your Device
All kids' electronics will be different in one way or another. For example, while some devices will have moving parts, others may have batteries or radio communications. Knowing what type of device you have will help you understand what specific safety certifications are most important.
Some simple questions to ask include:
Power source: Is this device powered by AC power (wall plug), traditional battery, or some other power source?
Signal type: Does this device send or emit any signals or communication (e.g. radio waves for remote control cars, or bluetooth signal)?
Data transmitting: Is this a "connected" device that gathers or transmits data?
2. Find the Company Behind Your Device
As explained previously, Amazon’s marketplace is available to virtually anyone. While there’s no requirement that a company or brand have a web presence outside of Amazon, this is something consumers should look for when considering a kids toy. Jump out of Amazon and simply Google the name of the brand selling the product. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding their website. If they don't have a website, this should raise immediate questions about the company and the potential consumer experience. At minimum, the seller has not prioritized consumer-facing service, or worse, they have something to hide.
3. Look for the Safety Certifications
Priority Standards: When considering most common types of kids electronics, start with the below “gold-standard” certifications for consumers in the U.S. While the below regulatory compliance and certifications may not be applicable to every kids electronic toy, together they cover most types of devices and should be clearly stated on a company’s listing and website:
EN71 & ASMT (F963) Compliance(e.g. UL or SGS certified): gold standard certification of regulatory compliance and third party testing for kids toys in the US and Europe.
SAR: Mandatory certification for any toys electronics emitting frequencies (e.g. remote controlled toys).
COPPA Compliance: Mandatory requirement for any "connected" kids toy or app that saves or transmits data.
Above & Beyond Standards: For added peace of mind, the below certifications prove material durability, environmentally conscious practices, and international compliance against the regulations of other nations:
RoHS:A European directive proving compliance that reduces hazardous e-waste.
CE:A compliance seal demonstrating safety requirements for legal trade within EU countries (non-mandatory in the U.S.).
IP67: A test for durability and reliability of a product against basic water and dust particles.
CB Scheme:A compliance program covering over 50 countries’ regulations, especially in regard to battery and chemical safety.
CEC:A California-based certification that demonstrates additional environmental safety related to energy consumption and emissions.
When shopping for kids electronics, start with these "Priority Standards" as applicable to your specific device. If none of these certifications are claimed or proven, it’s a good idea to move on.
If you find a claim or proof of the applicable mandatory compliance/certifications, then check to see if any additional certifications are noted from the "Above & Beyond" category. This will help give additional peace of mind that the company has placed safety first as a priority for your family.
For consumers wanting to go the extra mile, there’s nothing that should stop you from contacting the company and asking for documentation related to acquired safety certifications. This should be documentation the company has readily available.
4. Conduct the "Family-Safe Sniff Test"
If you've gone through steps 1-3, congratulations! You likely have a good product on your hands. But there's one final step we recommend any consumer take in order to ensure safety for their family. We call it the "Family-Safe Sniff Test."
If you've reviewed the Amazon listing and found a website, simply ask yourself this: does it sound right? How does the company present itself? Is the wording and language clear? These five elements are particularly important:
Customer service contact information
Put together, the above four steps will help consumers safely and confidently navigate a wild and unpredictable marketplace of online kids electronics. This may mean a
bit of extra time or research before clicking the Buy Now button, but the safety of our kids is more than worth it.