TIA.CarterKeithleyThe Toy Book: What challenges are currently facing the toy industry and how is the Toy Industry Association (TIA) addressing them?

Carter Keithley: Over the past several years, our industry has done a tremendous amount of work to maintain and strengthen our robust safety standards. Nonetheless, the toy industry continues to be confronted with spurious allegations about the safety of toys and non-toy children’s products. Of course, these misleading allegations often emerge around the holiday season, and they have the potential to damage our industry’s reputation and unnecessarily worry toy givers. This is especially frustrating given the many proven developmental benefits of toys and play.

As part of our ongoing efforts to provide families with accurate information about safe play, in November TIA conducted a comprehensive analysis of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s (U.S. PIRG) Trouble in Toyland reports issued from 2008 through 2013. We determined that PIRG’s reports were based on improper testing methods that are not approved by the federal government, and failed to support the group’s allegations that the identified toys present any danger to children at play. In fact, none of the supposedly hazardous toys identified in the reports from the past six years were recalled as a result of PIRG’s allegations, and 20 percent of the products named by PIRG are not even toys. We provided media outlets with our analysis; our findings were included in more than 50 news stories, including a national NBC package which aired in over 30 local markets, including New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Our proactive efforts to correct misleading information about toys and communicate the year-round work of our industry to keep kids safe will extend through this year. We are developing strategies and messages to further educate government, consumers, and the media about the safety of toys and the intrinsic value of play for children of all ages. We have already started a dialogue with the emergency and pediatric physician communities to see how we might partner with them to promote messages about safe play–including the use of proper safety gear for ride-on toys and parental supervision at all times.

We also look forward to growing our popular Genius of Play consumer awareness campaign, which underscores the critical role of play in childhood development. Launched on behalf of the entire industry in the fourth quarter of last year, the campaign’s pilot was a tremendous success, with many views, “Shares,” and “Likes.” We encourage your readers to share the website’s play-related facts, data, and videos with their followers and friends on social media.