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Baby apps claiming to educate mislead consumers, group tells FTC

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The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any electronic "screen time" for infants and toddlers under 2, while older children should be limited to one to two hours a day. It cites one study that found infant videos can delay language development, and warns that no studies have documented a benefit of early viewing.

In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Open Solutions said it agrees that electronics are not a substitute for human interaction. But it noted the many positive reviews its apps have received by customers.

"We also don't say 'get this game and let it teach your child everything,'" wrote the company, based in Bratislava, Slovakia. "We assume (the) child is playing the game with parent/sister/baby sitter. We think we have apps that can help parents with babies, either by entertaining babies or help them see new things, animals, hear their sounds, etc."

Kathleen Alfano, senior director of child research for Fisher-Price, said in a statement that toy development at the East Aurora, N.Y.-based company begins with extensive research by experts in early childhood development "to create appropriate toys for the ways children play, discover and grow."

"Grounded in 80 years of research and childhood development observations, we have appropriately extended these well-researched play patterns into the digital space," Alfano said.

Linn's group alleges that the companies violate truth-in-advertising laws when they claim to "teach" babies skills. For example, Fisher-Price claims that its Laugh & Learn "Where's Puppy's Nose?" app can teach a baby about body parts and language, while its "Learning Letters Puppy" app educates babies on the alphabet and counting to 10. Open Solutions says its mobile apps offer a "new and innovative form of education" by allowing babies to "practice logic and motor skills."

"Given that there's no evidence that (mobile apps are) beneficial, and some evidence that it may actually be harmful, that's concerning," Linn said.

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