Ads in Kids’ Apps: Recognizing Practices

Ads in Kids Apps

The online world is a very helpful place, brimming with content that helps your child learn and apps to keep youngsters connected with family members. However, there are negative sides to the web too. Today, we’re going to look at ads in kids’ apps and how they can manipulate your child.

Parents today have to be diligent about making sure their kids don’t share too much information online and ensuring that they are protected against cyberbullying. Even the apps your children use can have issues that need to be addressed.

The Problem with Ads on Kids Apps

Most of today’s app creators and business leaders use display ads to make money – and that applies whether you’re accessing an app for children or one for adults.

One study discovered that some apps are even designed to make children feel guilty if they don’t pay for in-game content.

Other apps have earned backlash from parents over the years because they serve adult-themed content, even though the apps themselves are tailored to children. Certain groups are starting to take steps to prevent kids’ app creators from adding dangerous or inappropriate ads to games and educational apps.

In the meantime, as the FTC examines the ad practices used by developers, here are some malicious practices your kids need to be aware of.

Dangers of Sharing Private Information

Children don’t always have the best grasp of the dangers associated with sharing information online. They don’t know what dangerous people might be able to use their address or phone number for. They often feel comfortable revealing information that they perceive to be common knowledge, like their age or full name.

To ensure that your child’s protected from ads trying to gather personal information, make sure your kids know the difference between sensitive and safe information. It might be helpful to give your child a list of information they should never share online that they can check if they’re unsure.

Tell your children to come and get you if an app ever asks for information that they’re not sure is “private” or not.

Your children should always feel comfortable coming to you about anything they’re unsure about when they’re using the online world. Make sure you create an atmosphere that supports open communication about internet safety and the digital landscape.

Excessive Amount of Ads You Can’t Control

If a child comes and asks you whether they can download an app on their smartphone or tablet, it’s usually a good idea to check it for yourself first – before you agree.

Examine the app for yourself after installation to make sure that there aren’t many ads that will overwhelm your child. You may need to explore the app in-depth for a while before you start seeing the different ad options available.

Even if the app seems to be appropriate for your child’s age range or the app is educational in nature, there’s always a risk that it’s packed full of ads that your children can’t control.

It’s also worth doing some extra research online by checking out comments and reviews left by other parents.

Searching for the name of an app on Google should give you some insights into the kind of content it shows. You can also check the app ratings on the Apple or Google play store. If you notice other parents warning people away from the app, don’t allow your child to download it.

If you can’t find any information about the app online at all, then this could be another bad sign. It indicates that the company responsible for the app may have deleted negative comments.

If your ban on the app is met with your child’s protest, the best way to address it is to be open about why you don’t agree with them using the app.

You can discuss any negative comments or bad practices the app developers are using – in an appropriate manner, of course.That way, your child will become more sensitive to certain topics and issues should they arise in some other app they’re using.

Avoiding In-App Purchase Ads

It’s becoming increasingly common for modern app developers to list their apps as “free” only to overwhelm children with a host of things that they need to pay for once they’ve set up an account.

These “pay to play” games encourage children to pay for extra lives or in-game content and can even guilt them into feeling like they need to spend their parents’ money.

Although you can always set limitations on your child’s phone and tablets that prevent them from being able to make a purchase in an app, it’s best to avoid games and apps with internal purchases entirely if you can.

Usually, you’ll be able to see whether in-game charges are an issue on the description for the app on the Google or Apple store.

If your child comes to you asking for money for an app that they’ve downloaded for educational purposes, make sure that you carefully check the terms and conditions of the purchase.

Ensure that purchasing a specific item doesn’t mean that you sign up for any recurring subscriptions or open the door to new ads.

Apps for Children Shouldn’t be Filled with Ads

Nowadays, many businesses develop mobile apps because they offer various benefits – from data collection to targeted mobile marketing messages in order to increase sales or awareness. However, while adults can easily detect dishonest practices, for kids, they may not always be that obvious.

A great app for children should be a source of education and entertainment. The best apps can help your child to develop new skills and provide them with access to useful information. Good apps can also be an excellent way to keep your child’s mind active and help them with all kinds of learning challenges.

While the occasional ad may be a necessity with some apps that need help to pay for development and building processes, your children’s apps shouldn’t be riddled with ads.

Until the FTC and other groups can work together to limit the kind of advertising children are exposed to on smartphones and tablets, it’s up to us as parents to carefully assess and choose the right apps for our children.

Ashley Wilson - WriterAshley Wilson is a digital nomad and writer for hire, specialized in business and tech topics. In her self-care time, she practices yoga via YouTube. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys trying out new food. Contact Ashley.

Nimble Numbers

Do They Tell the Truth in Advertising?

Numbers will scream at you all your life. “9 out of 10 dentists recommend Sparkle tooth paste.” “70% of people prefer dogs over cats.” “66.6% of all girls prefer the color purple over the color pink.” Websites and textbooks and advertisers often have numbers for everything. But are those numbers always true?

Those numbers are most commonly found by asking people to answer a question with one or two answers (a poll) or a series of questions with a larger choice of answers (a survey). By asking the right questions, polls and surveys can get answers that don’t quite tell the truth.

Let’s look at advertisers who use dentists to sell a dental product. And imagine that you’ve just invented a brand new tooth paste that tastes like candy floss. You take samples to ten dentists and ask them if they would recommend it to their clients.

The dentists try the tooth paste and, while other tooth pastes they know would be better at dental care, they see nothing wrong with Candy Floss Paste. They know that some kids don’t like brushing their teeth and think that maybe they would be more likely to brush if the paste tasted like candy floss. Nine give you the recommendation.

The tenth thinks, “Well, this won’t hurt anyone, but other brands work better and still taste good.” He doesn’t give you a recommendation.

Still, you can brag that 9 out of 10 dentists recommended your paste. But what if you had given the dentists your paste as well as one of the most effective and yummy-tasting brands and asked which they would recommend? Think about it—then think about whether or not 9 out of 10 is really the truth.

Another way numbers can lie is found in who you ask.

Imagine you stand outside a dog show and ask all the people coming in to watch the show: “Do you prefer dogs or cats?” Of course, most of the people will say they prefer dogs. After all, they are going to a dog show. If you want to get a poll that says more people prefer cats, take your poll outside of a cat show.

You might think this is an obvious example, but consider that many polls and surveys take place in your favorite shopping mall. Teenagers in a mall would be more likely to say yes to the question: “Do you plan on buying a new cell phone in the next year?” If you asked that same question in front of a senior citizen’s home, what do you think the results would be?

Now think about how you would get 66.6% of girls to say they preferred purple over pink. Here’s one way: Go to a schoolyard or mall and look for girls wearing purple. Ask them if they prefer purple over pink. If they are wearing purple, chances are very good that they will say that they prefer purple over pink. One, though, might prefer pink but didn’t have an clean pink shirt to wear that day.

Here’s another way. Get a celebrity or a person who resembles a popular singer. Dress that person in an expensive, cool purple shirt or dress. Studies have shown that people will give poll responses that they hope will get the approval of the attractive person asking the question. That answer might not be the truth, but it might help make purple more popular.

Next time you see a commercial or read a news story with a percentage in it, think about that number. More importantly, think about how that number was created. That number might not be as true as it sounds.

We’ve explored claims made in advertising.  Now, let’s explore statements of fact made in the news stories.

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