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Friday, August 16, 2013

Under Scrutiny, Baby App Maker Amends Learning Claims

A children’s advocacy group has withdrawn a complaint of deceptive marketing against the maker of eight mobile apps for babies, now that the company has amended its claims about the products.

Last week, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a nonprofit group in Boston, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission saying that the app developer, Open Solutions, had marketed the apps to teach infants reading, pronunciation, math and logic skills â€" in the absence of evidence that the products could do so. The group also filed a similar complaint against apps made by Fisher-Price.

Since then, Open Solutions has changed the descriptions of its apps for babies in the iTunes store.

Last week, one app by Open Solutions, called Baby Hear and Read Verbs, said the product would help infants “learn how to read, pronounce and spell basic verbs.”

Now, the app no longer claims to teach language skills. Instead, the description, aimed at parents, says, “You can run simple slide show for the youngest where no children cooperation is needed.”

Stefan Babinec, an executive at Open Solutions, which is based in Bratislava, Slovakia, did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

In a statement, Susan Linn, the director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said her group applauded Open Solutions “for taking such decisive action to remedy their false and deceptive marketing.”

The group also reiterated its complaints about the marketing of certain apps, called Laugh and Learn, from Fisher-Price, saying the company “continues to claim its apps teach language and math skills.”

In a statement last week, Kathleen Alfano, the senior director of child research at Fisher-Price, said that the company conducts extensive research “to create appropriate toys for the ways children play, discover and grow” and that it had “appropriately extended these well-researched play patterns into the digital space.”