The educators manually review thousands of mobile apps available in the Google Play & Apple App Stores as well as connected TV (CTV) apps from the Roku Channel Store and Amazon Fire TV App Store using the COPPA Rule factors shown below & make those results available to the public atratings.pixalate.com.
This post takes a look a popular mobile app from the Google Play Store. Our reviewer discusses how the subjective factors set forth in the COPPA Rule apply to the app and factor into the reviewer's determination as to whether the app is child-directed or general audience (i.e., it is not targeting children).
Tabitha’s take:Colorful, animated dogs that need a child to take care of them
COPPA factors used to determine audience
My Smart Dog: Virtual Puppy is a child-directed app which allows the user to take care of a virtual dog. The brightly colored dogs are animated with huge eyes, makeup, and hair accessories that would appeal to younger children. The background artwork paints a carefree and happy picture of a house filled with brightly colored furniture that matches the colors of the dogs and numerous toys. Floating bubbles in the bathtub and puffy clouds outside complete the kid-friendly background visuals.
While using the app, a simple tune plays on repeat. Young children would catch on quickly to the tune and enjoy the repetitive nature, while it would probably send parents searching for the settings to turn it off. Additionally, the puppy often makes small sniffing and barking sounds to attract attention and indicate what it would like to do. When achieving a new level there is a different little song that plays while fireworks go off in celebration.
There are numerous reviews from parents writing how much their children - some as young as three - enjoy the app. There are also many reviews that appear to be written by younger children based on the language and the abundance of emojis. This app has a U.S. content rating of E and a European PEGI rating of 3 years old and up.
While I view this app as child-directed, it is worth noting that the video advertisements are shown sporadically while playing and are not necessarily targeting children. While there are some advertisements for other apps that appear child-friendly, generally most of the ads are for common household products, such as toilet paper or news channels.
According to the privacy information listed for the app in the Google Play store, this app does not collect or share any user data.
Screenshots of My Smart Dog: Virtual Puppy:
About Pixalate’s Trust & Safety Advisory Board
Pixalate’s Trust and Safety Advisory Board was created to bring in individuals with experience using child-directed apps in the classroom to review and assess which apps are child-directed. This manual review process serves to quality check Pixalate’s automated review process. See our full methodology for more information.
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Per the MRC,
“'Fraud' is not intended to represent fraud as defined in various laws, statutes and ordinances or as conventionally used in U.S. Court or other
legal proceedings, but rather a custom definition strictly for advertising measurement purposes. Also per the MRC,
“‘Invalid Traffic’ is defined generally as traffic
that does not meet certain ad serving quality or completeness criteria, or otherwise does not represent legitimate ad traffic that should be included in measurement counts.
Among the reasons why ad traffic may be deemed invalid is it is a result of non-human traffic (spiders, bots, etc.), or activity designed to produce fraudulent traffic.”