May 21, 2019

Advertisers Are Aggressively Targeting Your Children

“Your children’s smartphone games may be selling them stuff behind your back.

Some 95% of downloaded apps for kids ages 5 and under use at least one type of advertising tactic, according to a University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital study released Tuesday. These applications, many of which tout themselves as educational games, have pop-up video ads, characters persuading children to make in-app purchases and banner ads, researchers found. The study, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, looked at more than 135 apps.

See: Smartphones can affect children’s mental health — how to get them sleeping again

These marketing strategies were used in 100% of free apps analyzed in the study and 88% of apps that cost money, and they occurred at similar rates in both. Video ads were in a third of all analyzed apps and more than half of free apps.

In-app purchases, a way of making users pay for an upgrade while they’re using the app, were present in one-third of all apps, and 41% of free apps. “Our findings show that the early childhood app market is a wild west, with a lot of apps appearing more focused on making money than the child’s play experience,” said senior author Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral expert and pediatrician at Mott.”

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