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Advocacy Group Says Mobile Apps for Toddlers Aren't Very Smart

Group files complaints against Fisher-Price and Open Solutions with FTC

Photo: Tom Roberton

Can babies learn to count by using a mobile app? How about learn the alphabet?

According to The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, mobile apps for toddlers from Fisher-Price and Open Secrets are duping parents into thinking the apps are educational. On Wednesday, the Boston-based advocacy group filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission charging that the two companies have been falsely marketing their popular apps without definitive scientific proof.

Fisher-Price's Laugh & Learn apps were downloaded nearly 3 million times in 2012. The company claims the apps will teach babies language and numbers skills, yet offers no evidence to back up that claim. Open Solutions makes similar claims, promoting that its apps will teach babies reading and spelling.

"Their false and deceptive marketing creates the impression that their apps effectively educate infants and toddlers when time with tablets and smartphones is really the last thing very young children need for optimal learning and development," said CCFC director Dr. Susan Lin in a statement.

There is strong precedent for the FTC to take on the two cases under its authority to enforce deceptive advertising. A year ago, following another complaint by the CCFC, the FTC slapped down three defendants connected with Your Baby Can LLC for lacking scientific evidence to back up marketing claims that Baby Einstein DVDs ads could teach children as young as nine months old to read. 

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