I-Team: Child predators could target kids through popular toy, area mom warns

CARLISLE — A Warren County mother is warning other parents in the area about a popular toy bought for Christmas that could be used by child predators.

Sherri Witt, of Carlisle, bought Paw Patrol walkie talkies as a Christmas gift for her young children. But the toy from the popular children’s show turned into disturbing experience for her family.

“As we are showing them how to use it, a voice comes over, it was another little kid, that we thought probably got one for Christmas. They couldn’t hear each other but they were both saying ‘testing – 1. 2,’” Whitt told News Center 7′s Katy Andersen.

Witt said she didn’t think much of this first experience, but days later she heard another unfamiliar, male voice from the toy.

“He asked ‘do you live close by?’ He then says, ‘Are you over six? I am 21 and I want to be your friend,’” Witt said.

“At that point, I am freaking out. These are not normal questions.”

Other parents said they had similar issues with the same toy. Online reviews for the Paw Patrol walkie talkies uncovered comments from parents like “these work too great.” The same parent said their daughter was in contact with a truck driver who was driving by their home.

Another parent said they heard a man’s voice asking for their children to come outside.

After the second issue with the toy, Witt said she contacted Carlisle police and filed a report. Investigators praised her for acting quickly and encouraged others to report issues to law enforcement when they happen.

“This is a good example of a mother who was staying involved with her youngsters and avoided a problem. She stopped it before it became a problem,” Carlisle Police Chief Will Rogers said.

“It’s difficult to do something about something we don’t know about, so letting us know is a great first step in letting us put a stop to people who may be using these things as a way of being a predator and we can put a stop to it,” Rogers said.

Additional research of the toy found it has a range of 1,000 feet and there is no way to change the frequency, Witt said.

“So whoever was talking was very close. Too close for comfort,” she said.

So she’s taken the batteries out and put the walkie talkies away.

“It made my stomach ill to be honest, because I brought this into my home. I brought this toy that I thought was just a toy for my kids to play with, in my home, and I brought unknowingly the ability for other people, whether innocent or not, to kind the same frequency as my kids and find out information about them,” she said.

Which, a consumer advice organization based in the United Kingdom, surveyed several smart toys, including walkie talkies and karaoke machines. Their research found most smart toys could allow a stranger to communicate with a child. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission advises parents to properly understand a smart toy’s features, along with the information it will collect, and how that data will be used.

News Center 7 reached out to Viacom, the parent company of Nickelodeon who licenses the Paw Patrol show. Viacom directed comment to the toy’s manufacturer and News Center 7 is awaiting a response.

Katy Andersen

I joined WHIO's team in September 2019. You can catch me on News Center 7 when I anchor Saturdays at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and Noon, Sundays at 6 and 11 p.m., and while I am reporting during the week.