Researcher Cheryl Williams on apps for babies. Are "age appropriate" games actually good for them? (Thomas Whisenand/CP)
Jian speaks with Cheryl Williams, a York University PhD candidate who has been studying apps made for babies and the rise of "underhanded" marketing during playtime. Williams says toy companies are creating games for children as young as six months old that are primarily vehicles for advertising.
"The baby is actually bonding with these characters in the app because they're playing with them everyday for a few weeks," Williams explains.
In one of the apps she looked at, touching a banner led to a full-page ad for a monkey toy.
"Then [the babies] are in a shopping cart in the store, and they see the line of monkey toys on the shelves, and it's natural that they'd be gesturing and pointing," she says. "So they've then actually indicated a purchase preference to their parents before they're even able to speak."
Against this backdrop, she argues that advertising guidelines need to be updated for the digital age.
"My suggestion is that at least take the current regulations for television, and let's find a way to have them apply to the digital space," she suggests.
Willlams presented the results of her research this week at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at Brock University -- a prestigious academic conference held annually in Canada.