Friday, August 9th, 2013
A children’s advocacy group called the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that companies that produce videos and mobile apps aimed at babies and toddlers are fraudulently promoting the products as “educational.” More from The New York Times:
As mobile devices supplant television as entertainment vehicles for younger children, media and software companies increasingly see opportunities in the baby learning app market. But the complaint to the F.T.C. by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the same nonprofit group that helped prompt “Baby Einstein” to backtrack from its educational claims, challenges the idea that such apps provide more than simple entertainment value.
In addition to the complaint against Fisher-Price “Laugh & Learn” apps, which have been downloaded more than 2.8 million times, the advocacy group filed a similar complaint on Wednesday against apps for babies marketed by Open Solutions, a software developer.
According to the complaints, the companies say in marketing material that their apps teach infants spatial skills, numbers, language or motor skills. But, the complaints claim, there is no rigorous scientific evidence to prove that these kinds of products provide those benefits.
“The baby genius industry is notorious for marketing products as educational, when in fact there is no evidence that they are,” said Susan Linn, the director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which is based in Boston. “Parents deserve honest information about the educational value of the activities they choose for their children and they are not getting it from these companies.”
The group’s complaints also contend that using such apps “may be detrimental to very young children.” Ms. Linn said the programs could take time away from activities, like hands-on creative play or face-time with caring adults, that have proved beneficial for infant learning. She noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents avoid screen media for children under 2.
Image: Toddler using mobile device, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Tablets and other mobile devices can engage young children, and even help them learn, something manufacturers have seized on by marketing kid-friendly tablet covers and stands. But according to James Steyer, the chief executive and founder of the media education group Common Sense Media, buying a tablet for a toddler is a “ridiculous” idea. More from The Washington Post:
The iPad has only been around only since 2010, so there hasn’t been enough time to observe its long-term effects on kids, according to Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Rich, who runs the online advice column Ask the Mediatrician, says that apps on iPads and smartphones are limited as teaching tools since they typically focus on one type of learning — “skills and drills,” which teach children to correctly identify the ABCs or to moo when they see a cow on the screen.
“What’s more important at this age is learning how to learn rather than mimicking something,” Rich says.
Moreover, studies show that kids don’t learn anything substantial, such as language, from screens — television, iPads, computers — until 30 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents hold off on any form of screen time until their children are 2.
A 2004 study in the journal Pediatrics showed that children exposed to television at ages 1 and 3 had decreased attention spans at age 7. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question, though.
“You can see how a kid who already has difficulty paying attention is put in front of the television to chill him out,” Rich says. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Image: Toddler using tablet, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 13th, 2012
The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether mobile apps marketed to children may violate kids’ rights to privacy, and may be misleading parents with confusing and inaccurate privacy policies. The FTC has already identified a number of companies that are engaging in the dubious practices, tracking children’s mobile behaviors without the consent of parents. The FTC is also poised to vote on a new set of rules that would limit such companies’ ability to track pre-teens on their mobile devices. The Washington Post has more:
“The agency and the Obama administration have pushed for stronger protections for children who are spending more time than ever online, thanks largely to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in homes and schools.
While current law puts strict limits on advertising to children in print or on television, it provides fuzzier guidance on mobile technology, which can be far more invasive. Tech companies, for instance, can instantaneously locate a user, track a person’s social-media habits or keep a record of every Web site visited.
Those kinds of data, however sensitive to parents,have allowed companies to target ads and develop programs for children with a kind of precision that wasn’t available just a few years ago. The push by the government to update child privacy rules has faced resistance from Silicon Valley giants, including Facebook, Apple and Google, as well as the companies developing mobile apps. While they agree that children should be afforded special protections, they also argue some of the proposals would stifle a nascent and innovative industry.
Still, the FTC said it would launch “multiple” investigations into mobile apps companies that may have violated laws on deceptive practices or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that public interest groups say badly needs an update. The agency declined to identify the names or the number of companies that it would target in its probes.”
Image: Young girl texting, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 8th, 2012
A new study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology has found that teenagers in Japan who use cell phones or other mobile devices after they go to bed face a higher risk of having sleep problems and related mental health problems including depression. From Boston.com:
In the study, researchers investigated nearly 18,000 children in junior high and high schools in Japan, with subjects answering questions about their mental health, in addition to sleep and mobile phone habits. The study follows prior research that finds poor sleep is associated with mental problems in teens. For example, a study published last year in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found teens who had difficulty sleeping were at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts.
Image: Cell phone, via Shutterstock
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Monday, September 24th, 2012
A rising number of American teenagers are suffering from injuries while walking down the street, and researchers believe that the prevalence of text messaging is to blame, and that September and October are the problem’s deadliest months because teens are walking to, from, and around schools. More from MSNBC.com:
A new report shows that in recent years, pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19 year-olds increased 25 percent. Teens aged 14 to 19 made up half of all child pedestrian injuries, according to the report from SafeKids, a global non-profit organization focused on preventing injuries among children.
The study, Walking Safely: A Report to the Nation, took snapshot views of pedestrian death and injury among five year intervals from 1995 through 2010 and looked at age groups 0 to 4, 5 to 9, 10 to 14 and 15 to 19. Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau, SafeKids found that the death rate among older teens is now twice that of younger kids, with 1.11 deaths per 100,000 members of the population as opposed to .47, .33, and .45 in the other cohorts respectively.
While the report, sponsored by FedEx, doesn’t break down how many of those were using mobile devices at the time of injury, Kate Carr, president and CEO of SafeKids Worldwide, says she believes that’s what is driving the rise in injuries.
“In addition to the increase in pedestrian injuries we saw among older teenagers, we also examined numerous outside reports about how much mobile use has increased among teens, “ she says. “We know that the average number of texts per teen has risen dramatically. Couple that with drivers who are talking on the phone or texting, and you have distracted people on both sides of the equation. Our hypothesis is that the rise in injuries among these older teens is caused by their dramatic increase in their cell phone use.”
Image: Teen texting, via Shutterstock
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