The Wall Street Journal recently reported that U.S. food companies are reaching children by embedding their products in mobile game apps. I downloaded a few games this morning and was not impressed.
It is too easy for a child to click a mobile ad; the “x”(to close the ad) is minimal, while the ad itself is splashed across the screen. If you were a young child, would you click on the small x or the over-sized graphic?
My App Review: The SuperPretzel Factory by Sunstorm Interactive may be entertaining for a young child – the child presses different mixer buttons as she/he attempts to fill as many pans with dough as possible before the timer runs out. Most likely they will get frustrated when they make it to level four, only to find a broken cart that will not move to catch the falling pretzels. If you look at this particular game app from an adult perspective – the game consists of approximately 95 percent locked areas and advertising.
The food-industry games generally have rudimentary graphics and objectives simple enough for small children to understand. They have raised debate over who should be responsible for their impact on children—parents or the government. –The Wall Street Journal
Nearly one in five U.S. kids between the ages of 2-19 are overweight. Parents play a crucial role in the prevention of childhood obesity. Teaching children how to select healthy food options begins in the home. Digital technology games can detract from healthy lifestyle choices by luring the child to concentrate on junk food.
“We know that when children are engaged, they learn, so when mobile apps are fun, entertaining and developmentally appropriate, they can be powerful educational tools.” Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, Children’s Media, PBS.
A Note to Parents
Be aware of how your child is interacting with games on mobile devices. Children rely upon you to provide appropriate stepping stones as they meander through a digital world filled with advertising.