Attorney general releases shopping guide, warns parents to monitor kids’ online

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Nancy Cowles of Kids in Danger joined Attorney General Lisa Madigan to release the 2015 Safe Shopping Guide to warn families of toys and products recalled over the past year. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

With Black Friday, one of the year’s biggest shopping events, only days away, Attorney General Lisa Madigan released her annual Safe Shopping Guide on Monday.

Along with photos and descriptions of nearly 100 children’s products that were recalled last year, Madigan put this year’s focus on the importance of monitoring children’s Internet access.

“You as a parent really need to have some understanding of what it is they’re doing with the technology you’re giving them,” Madigan said. “As parents, we have to take responsibility of having these conversations that may not be the most fun but turn out to be some of the most important.”

The first four pages reveal statistical information in relation to how young kids start using electronic devices and what information teens are revealing about themselves on social media accounts.

It cites a study published in 2012 showing a big gap between parents think they know — and what teens think their parents know. According to the study, 91 percent of parents believe they are well informed about what their teens do online and on their cell phones, while only 21 percent of teens think their parents are very well informed about their online behavior.

Madigan suggests setting up a signed agreement between parent and child, covering online etiquette, usage and information disclosure.

“You have to communicate, you have to talk to your children about what they are going to be allowed to do online, what they are actually doing online and then you actually have to monitor that.

A mock contract is included in the guide, which can be found on the attorney general’s website or by calling the office’s Recall Hotline: 1-888-414-7678.

While the guide covers only items recalled in 2015, consumers still need to be aware recalled products may be out on the market.

Based on 2013 recalls, fewer than 5 percent of children’s products that were already in consumer homes that were recalled that year had been fixed, replaced or refunded a year later. Once a recall happens, the product often remains in homes, according to Nancy Cowles, executive director at Kids in Danger.

Abe Scarr, director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group, warns buyers to exercise “extreme caution when shopping on secondary marketplace.”

“eBay or Amazon [are websites] where sellers may unknowingly and unwittingly be passing on and selling toys or products that should have been recalled,” he said.

The guide also list websites where parents can learn about product suitability for certain children age groups, cyber bullying, product recall databases as well as links to the studies used to gather many of the facts presented in the book.

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