WASHINGTON: The FBI has issued a warning to parents about the dangers of hi-tech toys that can connect to the internet and contain technology such as microphones and cameras, reported The Telegraph.

The US security agency said criminals could use the technology in smart toys to gather sensitive information about children, such as their location, name and what they look like.

It sent out an alert for parents that said connected toys could put children "at risk" of being targeted by criminals for identity theft or exploitation. 

"[Smart] toys typically contain sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, and other multimedia capabilities - including speech recognition and GPS options," said the FBI in the warning. "These features could put the privacy and safety of children at risk due to the large amount of personal information that may be unwittingly disclosed." 

Toys can gather personal information such as a child's name, school, hobbies, and likes and dislikes, which could be used for criminal purposes, it added.

The concerns are not unfounded. Cyber criminals hacked VTech in 2015 and accessed the details of more than 6.4 million children from 15 countries. Fisher-Price's Smart Toy Bear, one of the most popular children's toys of Christmas 2015, was found to have a problem that could have given hackers personal details about a child. 

Fears were also raised about a new interactive Barbie that can listen to children.

The FBI has advised parents to read the terms that come with any smart toys and ensure data isn't being shared with third parties. 

It added that parents should read consumer reviews and buy products from makers they trust.

"Security safeguards with these toys can be overlooked in the rush to market them and to make them easy to use," said the FBI. "Consumers should perform online research of these products for any known issues that have been identified by security researchers or in consumer reports." 

Additional ways to keep children safe when using smart toys, the FBI said, include making sure the latest security updates are always applied, look for products that use end-to-end encryption and only connect devices to secure internet networks, such as home Wi-Fi. 

Parents are advised to monitor children when they are using connected toys and to switch the devices off when they are not in use.