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How Mobile Advertising Targets and Reaches Kids - Kids App Review

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Two kids using smartphones

How Mobile Advertising Targets and Reaches Kids

Two kids using smartphones

 

We’ve all been there – we try to watch a video on YouTube or check out a new mobile app, only to be bombarded by ads. The same goes for our kids, too. Kids mobile advertising is relentless.

The global in-app advertising market is anticipated to reach $226.4 billion by 2025, growing at a rate of 19.4% from 2019. Mobile advertising is becoming more prominent due to its effectiveness. Marketers use mobile advertising tactics such as banners and pop up videos to target both adults and children through a variety of data points.

When we hand our children a smartphone or tablet for them to play a game or check out a video, they are being targeted with ads. The difference is adults know how to differentiate what is an ad within a mobile game while children do not. 

COPPA

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act began in 1998. It consists of rules for businesses regarding the gathering, use, and subsequent sharing of children’s data online. This applies to any child under the age of 13. 

COPPA is intended to keep children safe by holding app owners responsible for protecting minors since they don’t understand the different types of data they provide to an app and how it can be used. However, many mobile apps are used by children under 13 but not explicitly targeted to kids, and as a result not all app developers adhere to COPPA. 

As a parent, it’s important you pay attention to what apps your child is using and if they are properly adhering to COPPA. 

How Mobile App Advertising Affects My Child

Marketing has included manipulative methods directed at kids in the past as well as with modern devices. In 1974, the Federal Trade Commission banned host-selling in children’s TV shows. Host-selling refers to using characters to pressure the viewer into making purchases. 

The FCC extended this ban in 2004 to include websites that used characters or hosts of shows in a similar manner to sell products. While television remains the primary medium for screen time among younger kids, app usage continues to increase.

According to a 2020 survey, an estimated 8.2% of parents said their children spent more than $100 USD on in-app purchases in mobile games every month.  App developers are in business to make money; where in-app purchases or subscriptions aren’t generating revenue, mobile advertising is the preferred monetization method for many developers, with an estimated $190 billion spent by mobile advertisers in 2019.

Types of Mobile Advertising for Kids

Research shows that 95% of frequently downloaded apps played by or marketed to children under the age of five have at least one type of advertising in them. Kids are on smartphones and tablets now more than ever with many distance learning programs being available only on those devices. 

Banners

Banners come in familiar shapes and sizes throughout mobile apps and websites.  As with other mobile ad formats, banners can target users based on a variety of data points: device geolocation, device type, browsing history and more.  COPPA regulates advertising targeted to children using their behavioral data, but apps intended for users aged 13+ will not necessarily adhere to these restrictions.

Pop-Videos, Interstitials and Rewarded Videos

Gameplay is often interrupted with pop-ups and interstitials encouraging the player to make an in-app purchase. These images and videos often relentlessly promote purchases of in-game currency, cosmetic changes or unlocking additional premium features. 

Videos are a common marketing tool used in more than a third of all apps and more than half of free apps. Rewarded video ads offer in-game currency or prizes in exchanges for users watching a video ad. 

Character Promotions

In-game characters will appear on the screen to encourage players to make an in-app purchase, rate the app, or promote it on their social media. While characters used in promotions on websites and television was banned by the FCC, there are not as many rules and regulations for mobile apps.

Help Your Child Select Appropriate Apps

Researching high-quality apps for your child is the first step. Navigating the app store, whether it’s on an Apple or Android device, can be an uphill battle.

Searching for apps in the education category will help you select an app that highlights learning through play. Do outside research on the apps before you purchase or download them.

Since many apps will prompt kids to make in-app purchases, you can enable a safeguard so your kid can’t make purchases without knowing your password.  

One of the ways to address this issue is to experience the in-app advertising and marketing for yourself. Hop on one of the apps they use and play through it, talking to your child about mobile ads and in-app purchases. Help them recognize the various types of in-app ads and promotions so they understand what to avoid tapping on.

In addition, make sure to read through the app’s terms of use and privacy policy if your kids will be using it. Data collection practices and especially COPPA compliance for kid-targeted apps are important points to look out for. 

Be Proactive With Kids Mobile Advertising

As a parent, it’s vital to take an active role in the content your child is exposed to as mobile advertising budgets, including campaigns targeted to kids, continue to grow. 

At Kids App Review, our mission is to evaluate apps and give parents an accurate and unbiased opinion on the apps available for kids.  Check out our favorite kids apps here.