The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

August 7, 2013

Benefit of mobile apps for toddlers questioned

(Continued)

"Given that there's no evidence that (mobile apps are) beneficial, and some evidence that it may actually be harmful, that's concerning," Linn said of the companies' marketing claims.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Open Solutions said it agrees that electronics are not a substitute for human interaction. It also noted the many positive reviews by customers.

"We also don't say 'get this game and let it teach your child everything,'" the company wrote. "We assume (the) child is playing the game with parent/sister/babysitter. We think we have apps that can help parents with babies, either by entertaining babies or help them see new things, animals, hear their sounds etc."

Fisher-Price, contacted by phone and email, did not provide comment.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than half of American adults own a smartphone while about a third of adults own a tablet. With the number of mobile devices on the rise, mobile software applications have become lucrative money makers. Even apps that are downloaded for free will often collect personal information from a consumer that can then be sold to marketers.

Most of the Fisher-Price apps, for example, are free but warn in their privacy policies that "third parties" can collect information about a person's device for possible marketing purposes.

Federal law says advertising can't mislead consumers and, in some cases, must be backed by scientific evidence. In 2012, the FTC — which enforces truth-in-advertising laws — agreed with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood that the developer of "Your Baby Can Read" lied when it promised consumers it could teach babies as young as 9 months to read. That business shuttered after the FTC imposed a $185 million settlement.

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