NCHR Comment on CPSC’s Proposed Study of Toddlers Using Smart Toys

October 6, 2023

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s proposed rule regarding: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposed Collection; Comment Request; Investigation of Smart Toys and Additional Toys Through Child Observations”.

The National Center for Health Research (NCHR) is a nonprofit think tank that conducts, analyzes, and scrutinizes research on a range of health issues, with a particular focus on which prevention strategies and products are most effective for which patients and consumers. We do not accept funding from companies that make products that are the subject of our work, so we have no conflicts of interest. 

We support the CPSC’s continued efforts to help ensure that toys and other consumer products are safe for use and are age-appropriate, but we have strong concerns that the planned study is poorly designed to provide the information needed. CPSC needs to study at least twice as many as the planned 60 children and 60 caregivers in order to determine what products are appropriate for children ages 2-4, so that they are studying children who represent the diversity of U.S. children in that 3-year age group in terms of influential variables such as cognitive and social development, socio-economic status (SES), and social and cultural differences that could influence their ability to use toys safely and effectively.

Conducting this research is important because toddlers tend to be more vulnerable to toy-related hazards, and research is needed to establish guidelines for toys that have not previously been scrutinized or are substantially different from other products on the market, such as smart toys; take-apart vehicles; some types of musical instruments; figurines; plush toys with electronic components; and manipulatives. We agree that CPSC should conduct research to help close this knowledge gap in toy use and potential misuse, so that the CPSC can ensure that toys coming onto the market are safe and age appropriate for consumers.  

Given the diversity of toys that will be studied, even 120 children may not be an adequate sample size, since the CPSC plans that each child would only be evaluated regarding 4 of the 6 different toy categories. Moreover, since many toys currently on the market are labeled as appropriate for ages 3 and older because they contain small parts that could be harmful if swallowed, we also urge that CPSC ensure that the number of children under age 3 that are studied is sufficient to determine appropriate labeling.  Increasing the number and diversity of children and caregivers who are engaging with each toy category is essential to provide information that will be reliable and generalizable for families across the country. 

We are concerned that the apparent effort to reduce the resources needed for this study and the desire to not require too much time with any individual child in the study has resulted in a research project that would not provide the important reliable and generalizable information that is the goal of the study. CPSC’s proposal for this study must be revised so that the results can be used to accurately develop recommendations based on robust, generalizable, and reliable data that will enhance the safety and well-being of American children.