Monday February 07, 2022
Online Toy Sellers Vary in Their Age-Grading Precision
E-commerce retailers' accuracy in stating the correct age grades for toys varies, especially comparing different toy types. That is according to a CPSC contractor report made available January 27. Causes vary too, wrote Westat (bit.ly/3GiCTJc), and can be as simple as typos, like accidentally entering "3+ months" rather than "3+ years."
Westat suggested that online sellers create quality control procedures when it comes to such information, explaining:
"For example, retailers can institute more detailed quality control practices when age-related information is entered on retailer websites, which may require the seller to verify their initial entry and include verification against the stated age listed on the manufacturer's website or on product packaging. Similarly, toy manufacturers can make sure that the stated age of a toy is prominently displayed on the product packaging and product page of their website. This will allow both retailers and consumers to easily obtain this information."
Additionally, although Westat found that reviewed websites generally did a good job in posting promotional images of children of the correct ages, it nonetheless urged that they have explicit policies to that effect. It emphasized that this is especially important where the age grade is not stated.
As for toys that are technically safe for a given age but might pose some developmental challenges, the authors lauded a real-world example: "4-7, I may need some help! 8-12, I can do it!" On a related note, they urged sellers to glean such information from customer reviews – for what ages are purchasers buying and what are their experiences.
The review looked at online sales of nine toy categories: figurines, holiday, interlocking-connecting, miniature, musical, novelty-expandible, party favors, ride-on, and smart.
Noting that their work was limited to reviewing websites, the authors suggested additional work related to observing children using toys and gathering information about what drives actual purchasers' age decisions. They also urged targeted research into party favors – do too-young children accompanying the invited party guests often get favors too?
Although just released, the report is dated March 2021.