Advertisers targeting children in ‘most downloaded apps’, study says

KLBK News

Consumer groups are urging the federal government to investigate whether advertisers are taking unfair advantage of young kids using apps on smart devices.

A recent study shows that 95 percent of the most downloaded apps for kids 5 and under target them with ads. It’s something the Montague family knows well. Lisa Montague said her two sons, 4-year-old Elliot and 7-year-old Ethan, see those ads every day.

“The first thing in the morning when they wake up, they want to use their tablet time for the day,” said Montague.

But, what some parents don’t realize is just how many of their kids ‘interactive’ games are littered with ads.

“There’s a bit of a wild west right now in terms of children’s app space,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky.

Radesky is the senior author of a new study which looked at more than 100 of the most downloaded Apps on Google Play that are aimed at children five and under. Researchers found those apps contained a variety of ads including pop ups, in-app purchases and even videos that interrupted game play.

The study even listed some of the ads as ‘manipulative, deceptive and disruptive.’ In some cases ad time even surpassed the amount of time spent actually playing the game.

“So, there might be a little dancing present or a playing snowman and if you click on that, which you would if you’re a 5-year-old, and app ad would often show up,” said Dr. Radesky.

The study also found that ‘free’ apps which “may be more often downloaded and played by lower income children had a significantly higher prevalence of advertising.”

Whe asked about the study, Google stood by its current policies saying, “play apps primarily directed to children must follow more stringent requirements, including content and ad restrictions. Additionally, Google Play discloses whether an app has advertising or in-app purchases, so parents can make informed decisions.”

In some instances the maker of one of the apps mentioned in the study, Talking Tom, said they’re responding to feedback that some of their games’ ads could be interpreted as misleading. The company said they’re taking immediate action to make sure ads are clearly marked as such.

Find out more about TTU K-12

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