How advertisers target your kids in online games and apps - FOX 35 News Orlando

How advertisers target your kids in online games and apps

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The ads change, but their target age stays the same. Children rake in so much in sales, marketers work hard to get their attention everywhere.

"There are so many internet applications, mobile site applications that are very attractive to children because they involved gaming," said University of Tampa professor Erika Matulich.

On television, ads geared toward children are regulated. On the web and in those games on your iPad, it's the wild, wild west for advertisers.

"They're not regulated at all, and we don't know what else your child is seeing," Matulich said.

Hundreds of free apps compete for attention.

"The problem with apps, especially free apps, are there is something always in the background. There are always advertisements you are unconsciously taking in and maybe not even paying attention to but may be some way influencing your eating habits," said Dr. Laura Umfer, author of "The Anti-Conformist Diet."

We showed parents a few games designed to make your child's stomach growl.

"My initial reaction was a little bit of disappointment honestly," said mom blogger Jenny Hodges of

She was disappointed the name of the game is to promote products as you swipe your way to a high score one ad at a time.

We asked what the kids thought of shooting hoops below a lifesavers goal.

"I noticed there was a lot of candy. And that the app wants kids to eat candy," said Ella Hodges.

"You do want to eat it and that definitely ties in with advertising. That's why companies advertise," said Marisa Langford of

It makes you wonder, is the app really a game or just a commercial?

"It is just an ad and I think it just makes me more diligent as a parent that I have to really know what I'm downloading," Hodges said.

Downloads are inevitable in this instant mobile era..

"They have really become a way of life. My son here as you see loves to take videos and take pictures," Hodges said.

In a report by the federal trade commission researchers reported 58 percent of children's apps contained ads. Only a few disclosed this before a download. Twenty-four apps stated upfront they didn't contain ads but, in reality, almost half of them did.

"You really have to watch what you're downloading," Langford said.

Don't forget in a world clamoring for your child's business online and on TV, even kids' games sometimes get to your child by targeting you.

"Seeing the repetitive amounts of candy. I could probably go for some candy (myself)," Langford said.

So how can you avoid the ad trap? Freebies from educational groups are safe bets and tend to have fewer ads. Make sure your tablet or smart phone requires a passcode so your child can't download stuff without your permission.

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