Advocacy Group Calls Out Baby App Developers for Deceptive ‘Educational’ Claims

A recent study has shown that some toddlers are getting so addicted to tablets and smartphones that they actually require therapy to cope with having the devices taken away. Seriously.

In light of this rather disturbing trend, it’s really no surprise that advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood isn’t too thrilled with companies making unsubstantiated claims about the educational value of apps for babies.

CCFC recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, stating that marketing claims made by app developer Open Solutions, including “entertain and educate your baby” and “new and innovative form of baby education” were deceptive. In response, Open Solutions dropped the phrases in question from their advertising.

While CCFC was satisfied with Open Solutions’ changes and subsequently withdrew its FTC complaint, the advocacy group has now set its sites on other creators of baby apps like Fisher Price.

“We hope that Fisher Price—and other baby app developers—follow their [Open Solutions’] example. It’s unfair for companies to make unsubstantiated educational claims that exploit parents’ understandable desire to give their baby a leg up—especially when time with tablets and smart phones [are] the last thing very young children need for optimal learning and development,” said Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC’s director.

Fisher-Price, however, is standing behind its claims. “Our toy development process begins with extensive research by our internal team of early childhood development experts to create appropriate toys for the ways children play, discover and grow. Grounded in 80 years of research and childhood development observations, we have appropriately extended these well researched play patterns into the digital space,” said Dr. Kathleen Alfano, Fisher-Price’s senior director of child research.

CCFC is urging the FTC to investigate its Fisher-Price complaint and to push for baby app developers to back up educational claims with substantive evidence, which, to us, seems like a reasonable request. It’s difficult enough for parents to navigate the ever-changing world of technology while doing their best to create healthy usage rules for their children — they really don’t need misinformation and over-hyped marketing claims tossed into the mix.