F.T.C Under Pressure to Ban ‘Unfair’ Online Manipulation of Kids

Children advocacy groups ask regulators to prohibit online services from offering unpredictable rewards — a technique that slot machines use — to keep children online.
23 November 2022
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Children’s privacy and health experts pressed regulators to prohibit video games and social networks from using attention-hacking techniques on youngsters.

My Talking Tom, an animated video game featuring a pet cat, is one of the most popular apps for young children. To advance through the game, youngsters must care for a wide-eyed virtual cat, earning points for each task they complete.

The app, which has been downloaded more than a billion times from the Google Play Store, also bombards children with marketing. It is crowded with ads, constantly offers players extra points in exchange for viewing ads and encourages them to buy virtual game accessories.

A parent who was deleting the app wrote in a critical review of the app: ““Every screen has multiple traps for your little one to click on.”

Children’s advocacy, privacy and health groups want to ban user-engagement techniques that, they say, unfairly steer the behavior of minors and hijack their attention. Last week, a coalition of more than 20 groups filed a petition asking the US Federal Trade Commission to prohibit video games like My Talking Tom, as well as social networks like TikTok and other online services, from employing certain attention-grabbing practices that may hook children online.

- CyberBeat

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