FEATURES

Kids’ Apps Are Full of Manipulative Ads

01 December, 2018 | DD Staff
  • Kids’ Apps Are Full of Manipulative Ads

Young children use mobile and tablet devices for an average of two hours daily*. Most of their time is spent playing games or using entertainment or educational apps.

A recent study** published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics reveals that 95% of the popular apps for children under the age 5, use manipulative and disruptive methods to advertise to kids within the apps. While traditional advertising like TV has restrictions, app companies run ads without any external regulation. A majority of these apps have been downloaded more than 10 million times each, with a few of them clocking in at 50 million downloads.

As part of the study carried out by researchers from the University of Michigan, led by Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral expert and pediatrician at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, they reviewed 135 apps and found that almost all of them used frequent interruptions like banner ads, video ads, teasers and pop-ups. Some even use commercial characters to persuade kids to unlock items, make in-app purchases, rate the app and share on social media.

Many of the advertising methods used were covert, distracting and mislead children into taking actions. Often, ads were hidden within elements of the game. Another manipulative and deceptive method is using familiar characters that appear on-screen, constantly reminding or guilting them into taking an action.

The study reports, “For example, in-app purchases were often not only advertised clearly to children (e.g., by a row of locked games or items) but were also encouraged by familiar characters in the app. Because children are known to develop trusting, emotional parasocial relationships with media characters and pay more attention to and learn better from familiar characters, we suggest that this is a misuse of parasocial relationships. In some cases, app characters showed disapproval of the user or an important mission (such as rescuing characters) could not be accomplished without a purchase, which may also lead children to feel an emotionally charged need to make purchases.”

Research shows that children below the ages of 8 cannot distinguish media and advertising content. The study reports, “In other words, they lack a meta-awareness about advertising and are unable to critically reflect upon their reactions to it. When advertisements are combined with rewards, both cognitive and emotional processes respond to persuasion.”

According to the researchers, these apps that are being promoted as educational are in fact harmful and not beneficial to a child’s learning and development.

Related Articles:

Partners & Parents - Resource Center:

Tips for Managing Screen Time at Home Children are great at copying, so give them responsible and socially-acceptable digital behaviors to copy.

Innovation & Technology How do parents navigate this fast-changing world in a way that really supports their children?

Video: Dealing With Cyber Threats Like The Momo Challenge New York City licensed Psychotherapist & Mental Health Counselor Jason Eric Ross is here to offer advice.

Sexting - Parent's Guide to Keeping Children Safe Most parents aren’t even aware that their children are engaged in sexting.

Advice to Avoid Turning Kids into Zombies Nearly every job in the future will require some type of screen time.

Feature Stories:

Top Monitoring Apps for Parents A list of the top parental control apps to help you monitor what your child is doing on their device.

Is Online Video Safe For Children? Why malicious content finds its way online and how to keep it away from your kids.

Silicon Valley Billionaires Say No To Screen Time For Kids Here is a snapshot of what some of these Silicon Valley titans have to say about their kids & screen time.

Opinion Pieces:

Device Vice The boy spent his entire restaurant visit in silence staring at the screen.

Why I Don’t Feel Bad About Giving My Kid Screen Time When you’ve exhausted all other forms of nurturing & entertainment, is there really any harm in handing out the family iPad?

Sources:

*  The Common Sense Census: Media Use By Kids Age Zero To Eight

** Advertising in Young Children’s Apps, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

RECENT
Parent Inventions
The ideas that follow tread that fine line between brain fart and brain art.
Empowering Little Girls
Girls tend to bring in fairy tales and “Princess books” while the boys bring “Super hero books".
Is Homeschooling Legal In India?
Reports estimate that there are upwards of 15,000 families that have chosen to take the homeschooling route.
The Importance of Physical Activity for Kids & Teens
In addition to diet and sleep, physical activity is the cornerstone of a healthy life.