Many developers market apps for children as being educational. So Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician at the U-M Medical School who wrote the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for children and media, wanted to check that out.
Her team of researchers spent hundreds of hours playing 135 different games. Published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the study’s findings are stark: 95 percent of commonly downloaded apps marketed to be played by children ages 5 and under contain at least one type of advertising. The researchers concluded many of these examples seemed to violate F.T.C. rules around unfair and deceptive advertising.
“The first word that comes to mind is furious,” said Radesky, an assistant professor of developmental behavioral pediatrics. “I’m a researcher. I want to stay objective. We started this study really just trying to look at distraction. My frustrated response is about all the surprising, potentially deceptive stuff we found.”