Consumer groups ask FTC to investigate apps that manipulate kids

Today, in conjunction with a new study that details a host of concerning practices in apps targeted to young children, 22 consumer and public health advocacy groups (including Public Citizen) called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the preschool app market. The groups' letter urges the FTC to hold app makers accountable for unfair and deceptive practices, including falsely marketing apps that require in-app purchases as “free” and manipulating children to watch ads and make purchases.

The study, “Advertising in Young Children’s Apps,” was led by researchers at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and examined the type and content of advertising in 135 children’s apps. Researchers found a number of troubling advertising practices, including apps that force kids to watch ads or make in-app purchases in order to advance in the game, ads disguised as game play, and beloved characters urging children to make in-app purchases. Advocates assert that these practices are deceptive to kids and parents alike.

The effort is spearheaded by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy. More information is here.

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