Children’s apps not suitable for children

In a recent study, the German Consumer Association found that many children’s apps are unsuitable. In total, 32 free apps were investigated.

Children's apps unsuitable for children © SIGNTIME - Fotolia

Children’s apps unsuitable for children © SIGNTIME – Fotolia

Free apps induce purchase

In recent study conducted as part of a project entitled “Consumer Rights in a Digital World”, the German Consumer Association has discovered that many apps which are aimed at children are unsuitable.

The study listed a number of tactics which are employed by developers to encourage app users to purchase services.

Many free gaming apps, for example, can only be played for a few minutes before a user is informed that they need to make a so-called “in-app purchase”. If a purchase is not made, the app often becomes useless.

Another example is making users wait between gaming sessions for up to seven hours. Many developers make it easy to end the waiting period with a purchase. With just one click the relevant fee can be added to the phone bill or deducted from the pay-as-you-go sim card.

Prices of in-app purchases can vary from several cents to tens of euros.

App advertising not suitable

The consumer association study also criticised the integration of advertising in children’s apps. It claims that many advertisements are not clearly distinguishable from the content. Adverts can take up entire screens and takes several clicks to remove.

In addition, content is sometimes shown which is unsuitable for certain ages and can negatively influence a child’s development. This includes casino adverts or flirting and chat services, the report claims.

Child apps are closely linked to social networks

The consumer association also worries that the strong link between apps and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter mean that children’s personal data is no longer sufficiently secure.

The transfer of such personal data, for example, requires the consent of an adult or legal guardian, which in many cases is not obtained.

Children are often induced into divulging their personal data and lured into playing apps with the promise of winning virtual goodies which are needed to continue playing.

Court decision

The German’s Federal Court of Justice recently ruled that internet advertising enticing children to make purchases is prohibited.

It seems highly likely that the court may soon have to rule on the topic of child apps as well.

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Christian Solmecke ist Partner der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und inbesondere in den Bereichen des IT-, des Medien- und des Internetrechts tätig. Darüber hinaus ist er Autor zahlreicher juristischer Fachveröffentlichungen in diesen Bereichen.

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