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Kids’ Apps Are Crammed With Ads (nytimes.com)
495 points by chablent 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 421 comments





Father of two little guys of 7 & 5 here. Personal story below.

There's no tablets at home, no games on parent's smartphones. They have access to technology thought. But we are a "NO ADS ALLOWED HERE" kind of home :)

Netflix is freely accessible on the only TV we have, during "opening hours", so that they can choose actively their program and not be exposed to TV ads (the TV has only access to Netflix).

They can switch on a Raspberry with an emulator where they can play some games from the 80/90'. But they have to enter one command on the little Bluetooth keyboard (and they do!).

And finally they can sit at the home's PC, start windows, ask parents to open their session and launch complex games such as Age Of Empire.

No internet access, only books for now.

When they happen to be exposed to TV ads at grand-parents home, for ex, you can really see what kind of behavior ads are ingraining in little brains: "I want this!", "Why is this so short?", "Why don't they tell the price?". That's always an opportunity for me to educate them to what's actually happening before their eyes: "look guys, this is a company (some people at work) that's working to expose their products (toys) to your eyes, hoping that you will ask your parents to spend money to buy it. They're smart, but we are smarter!".

I'm very inclined to think that toddlers should not have access to tablets, moreover to mainstream games on Android/Iphone. My personnal guess is that It's not preparing them to mastering technology, it's preparing them to be addicted to technology.


> That's always an opportunity for me to educate them to what's actually happening before their eyes: "look guys, this is a company (some people at work) that's working to expose their products (toys) to your eyes, hoping that you will ask your parents to spend money to buy it. They're smart, but we are smarter!".

You're stopping short of telling them about what is my real reason I hate ads. I wonder if the kids ever asked you why companies are doing it?

The reason I hate ads is because it's a legitimized way of abuse, of hurting other people. I'm gonna be a father at some point, and I dread the day I have to explain to my kid that modern civilization is in this weird state, where it's "friendly" in the sense that you don't generally have to fear strangers, but it's also overrun by malicious actors trying to suck your money and happiness dry. Our civilization pays lip service to being cooperative, yet so much of it is still adversarial.


I've got to say, you're using a pretty wild definition of the word "abuse", as well as "hurting other people". How in the world does an ad hurt you?

The closest I can I think of is that there are some mobile games that use their ads as bludgeons to force you to buy their "remove all ads" in-app purchase, which, if I enjoy the game, I'm usually more than happy to buy, even if I resent a little being bullied. You could possibly stretch this to meet the definition of "abuse".

I don't like ads, but it's a pretty big stretch to say that it is abuse. Are you talking about ads on the web or on television or in app in particular, or are you talking about print ads or billboards or radio ads as well?

Certainly there are services which are borderline scams (and occasionally real scams) like multi-level marketing or snake oil goop, or games that arguably are designed to trick you into spending money on in-app purchases, but the fact that those services use ads does not taint ads, any more than the fact that people that work there use pencils mean that pencils are abuse.


> I've got to say, you're using a pretty wild definition of the word "abuse", as well as "hurting other people". How in the world does an ad hurt you?

So, I realize this is a minority opinion, but this is close to how I feel, especially with respect to exposing my children to advertising.

Advertising is almost always an attempt to emotionally manipulate people by lying to them. There are some exceptions, like a catalog that lists objective descriptions and prices. But virtually everything else falls under that description.

Humans have the capability of reason, even though they're emotional naturally. Children, by definition, are still learning to use reason and logic and building effective habits. To expose children to a world of very smart adults trying to undermine their ability to reason or make good choices really is an act of aggression against children.

Abuse is probably too strong, but it's definitely an aggression.


I'm not sure it is a minority opinion, I just think it's so ingrained in us at this point we don't stop and notice. Perhaps it's having a kid, but I've recently been thinking on a regular basis that at some point in the future people will look back on the Advertising Age and wonder why anyone put up with what is essentially lying to encourage you to do something you probably don't need to.

I get why advertising exists and I think it probably did and can fill a need in a limited way but the incentives are all wrong. Ideally advertising would be a way of leading all buyers of mousetraps to the best mousetrap. Instead it is a way for the lesser mousetrap manufacturers/ the lazy/ the actively evil to foist inferior products on people via emotional appeals. We have homes filled to the brim wth crap we don't need because advertising suggests this next product will remove that existential dread or feeling of emptiness or impostor syndrome from your life.


> essentially lying to encourage you to do something you probably don't need to.

That's the best case scenario. More often than not, advertisers are actively malicious.

By that, I mean they are attempting to manipulate people into taking actions that are actively damaging to their health/finances/etc in order to enrich the advertisers. The fact that this is so accepted by society that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent doing it each year is absolutely repulsive.


Even the news/media industry is complicit in advertising. How can you tell the advertising bias in news articles etc? It's a tough problem to solve...

>Ideally advertising would be a way of leading all buyers of mousetraps to the best mousetrap. Instead it is a way for the lesser mousetrap manufacturers/ the lazy/ the actively evil to foist inferior products on people via emotional appeals.

I think this shift was largely due to the influence of the ideas of Edward Bernays, cousin of Sigmund Freud and arguably father of spin/Public Relations., which is largely a re-branding of Propaganda.

As an example of his work in an effort to get more women to smoke in public they were re-contextualized as "torches of freedom" and women were paid to smoke at the Easter Parade in New York. Somewhere along the line a shift towards selling a product (cigarettes) and selling on someone's unconscious desires and motivations. (to be seen as hip and with it)

Car marketing is one of the easiest places to see the change. Looking at early 20th century advertisements more of a focus is placed on qualitative benefits, such as cubic inches of trunk space or longevity of the engine or value for your money, compared to modern advertisements that focus convincing you that the car will make your roadtripping family happy, or make you appear successful, or environmentally conscious.


I agree, but you probably meant quantitative instead of qualitative in the last paragraph.

That said, There are plenty of car ads about how safe or reliable a car is, and hatchback ads routinely mention how spacious the trunk is. When 99% of cars are good enough for 99% of people (numbers made up) why should you buy any specific car other than the most cost-effective one? The experience that the car gives you. That's what car manufacturers are selling.


The problem with ads (and most of marketing too) is also that it turns into an arms race at scale and often at the expense of product quality.

Imagine two cities; one allows billboards and transit ads, one doesn't. Everything else being equal, which product wins in the ad-city? Usually the product with the ad dollars, unless there is a substantial difference in quality / price.

Which product wins in the non-ad city? The one that is better or cheaper.

The insidious thing is that brandable food products have to be processed in order to be unique. Anyone can grow an apple, but only Coca-Cola can make Vanilla Coke. So not only are we burning away attention / psyche with all these ads, we're also naturally incentivized to activities that aren't good for us or the planet.

If I had my way I'd ban it all. No advertising / marketing other than product demos and maybe search results[0]. There's too many downsides.

[0] Search is a special case because people are working to find a solution to their problem. For example, you may snore at night and search "nighttime snore mouthpiece" not knowing that there are other solutions like devices that detect snoring and automatically adjust your pillow. So in the search case the incentives are much more likely to be aligned.


I agree - except that Pompeii had adverts 2000+ years ago, now preserved in the ash. If it were possible to solve this in 2000 years, we probably would have....

Perhaps Google's original mission is the best one - accurate, impartial search.


> it were possible to solve this in 2000 years, we probably would have....

That's a terribly defeatist attitude, especially for someone who is writing a message on a colossal web of copper and forged glass, powered by lightning and runic commands, who probably doesn't live under the thumb of a king or suffer from polio, smallpox, or plague, and likely travels in a chariot drawn by elemental fire and oil extracted from the bones of the Earth, and who is far less likely to die from violence than at any point in history.

There's been a lot accomplished in the last 2000 years, and plenty of that achievement is fairly recent, scientifically and sociopolitically.


Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont have solved billboards.

No, don't backtrack. You hit the nail on the head.

It is abuse. It is manipulation. It is deceit. Mendacity at it's most essential form. It's predating on a limited resource (attention) in an attempt to push out any other options by hooking you through as high a mental form of stimulation as possible.

There is no need or excuse for that type of behavior. We just justify it because we've allowed an entire industry to spring up around it unchecked. Only halting that industry's ability to exploit unchecked in the most vulnerable populations after extraordinarily drawn out legal battles.

Tobacco and alcohol are about the only two markets I can think if with explicitly constrained marketing practices. Gambling too, in terms of game design, which I still think is close enough in desired effect to be considered a marketing practice.

Can marketing be a good thing? Yes! When the consumer is actively searching for it. In it's current form? It represents an unwanted, unwarranted invasion of privacy often foisted on users with no recourse.


Whenever I see people complaining about ads I commiserate. I worry about what happens as things like google glass actually become mainstream and I am always drawn back to this video that I think is a fairly realistic portrayal of what could be in the future: https://vimeo.com/166807261

I have a three year old and he gets so absorbed in screen time and then he goes nuts whenever we tell him it's time to turn off the tv/phone/games. Within a couple of minutes he is usually much more relaxed and I am working to curb any usage that isn't during a road trip/flight.


That is an awesome (horrific) vision of the future

Edit: the video, not your three year old :-)


Why do you keep giving him screen time when you can see it is hurting him?

> Abuse is probably too strong, but it's definitely an aggression.

Nah, call it what it is.

Consider it in the context of lotteries, how they're advertised, and who they tend to mostly affect. Or fast food. Abuse, for sure.


> Advertising is almost always an attempt to emotionally manipulate people by lying to them.

Advertising does not inherently rest on lying to people.

The problem is, once you strip away this you wind up with a definition of abuse that is essentially "emotionally manipulating people to feel what someone else wants them to". Which is an excellent description of the vast majority of human interaction.


> The problem is, once you strip away this you wind up with a definition of abuse that is essentially "emotionally manipulating people to feel what someone else wants them to". Which is an excellent description of the vast majority of human interaction.

Not if you notice that for vast majority of human interaction, that sentence ends with ", done in good faith and for mutual gain". Most individual interactions like this. Advertising definitely isn't.


In my admittedly sharply limited experience, at least one party to any such conversation genuinely believes they are acting in good faith and for mutual gain. This even includes things like people trying to get me to vote for a candidate I think is unsuitable. Or for a policy I think more likely to worsen the problems the canvasser wants to solve.

I think there may be more room for subtlety here. I've known plenty of marketers in my life. Most of them have genuinely believed that what they were marketing was something to improve the lives of the would-be customer and were acting in good faith to make the prospective customer aware of this. This ice cream? It'll taste good! This salad? Nutritious and filling! This video game or book? Hours of entertainment! This cheap beer? It can lubricate the social events you value!

Are there exceptions to this? Absolutely! Philip Morris springs immediately to mind. It may be excessively cynical to dismiss all advertisements as deliberately deceptive, not for mutual gain, or in bad faith is all.


Ads are more effective when they try to make the receiver feel inadequate. The vast majority of human interaction doesn’t have that goal.

I think they should ban the use of emotional sounding music in advertisements, that stuff really messes with your head cause instruments like violin or piano really grip you and paired with a paid advertisement it's hitting you with that information in a somewhat alerted state (music releases a cocktail of neurotransmitters [1])

1. http://www.audiocura.com/the-impact-of-music-on-neurochemist...


> Advertising is almost always an attempt to emotionally manipulate people by lying to them.

And lying is similar to violence in that both can be used to make you do what you otherwise would not do, and in particular can be used to make you act against your interests (an observation due to ethicist Sissela Bok). So the description of "abuse" is appropriate.


> Abuse is probably too strong, but it's definitely an aggression.

To the contrary, I think abuse is rather weak. I’d go further. Advertising is raping of the mind. Regardless of the medium (billboards, mail, spam calls, video, audio,..) the mind and senses are deviously polluted and raped with unwanted content without any consent.


The word you're all looking for is 'exploitation'. Advertisers and their clients are trying to exploit children for their personal gain.

Please don't abuse words like 'abuse' and 'aggression' by exploiting them. But even if you did, that wouldn't be an aggression.


Your comment about leaning makes me think that advertising might be a positive (ish).

This situation becomes a repeated lesson that not everyone has your best interests in mind. For advertising aimed at kids the stakes are low (bugging your parents or wasting allowance on toys, games, candy, etc). Would kids/young adults be at a disadvantage if they don't learn to "tune out" that kind of manipulation?


> I don't like ads, but it's a pretty big stretch to say that it is abuse. Are you talking about ads on the web or on television or in app in particular, or are you talking about print ads or billboards or radio ads as well?

I think he's talking about all of those and the "attention economy" they represent.

Keeping up to date with what's relevant is already difficult enough, it only becomes more difficult if you got ad-interests constantly trying to perform tricks to steal your attention and time.


The definition of abuse: use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.

Advertising exists to get consumers to spend their money on a product they don't need (or a particular brand of a product they do need).

The argument is that if they're inspiring you to give them your money for something you don't need (in most cases, tricking you into thinking you do need it) that's abuse.


Like I said, a pretty wild definition. Is it abuse if one of my coworkers buys a BMW? I mean, the intended use of a car is to drive, not to make me want to buy one for myself.

By this definition, isn't selling a product that people don't need a worse offense? We should put all those toy manufacturers and restaurants and luxury car makers and fashion designers and barbers and perfume makers out of business.

I'm just overreacting to a rhetorical device, I know. I don't like advertising, and I express that preference in by preferring no ads where possible, but rarely am I willing to pay money up front to remove them. My intolerance of ads is not unbounded; in most places my intolerance is worth less than a dollar. I don't think advertising is an issue that we need to address as a society. The particular issue of advertising in children's games is more of an annoyance than anything else -- my kids only activate ads accidentally and then have to come to me to figure out how to get out of the trap that the ad has led them into, since closing the ad can be tricky.


Your coworker buying a BMW is not abuse, but BMW causing you to want to buy one through their marketing is.

Selling a product is passive. Advertising that product is active. A company selling a product is not abuse. However, stores serve as advertisements for the products they sell. I would say that such stores - and the salespeople within them - are abusive.

> my kids only activate ads accidentally and then have to come to me to figure out how to get out of the trap that the ad has led them into, since closing the ad can be tricky.

Advertising aside, would you agree imposing a difficult to navigate user interface is abusive? I would.


Ads that lead to a more expensive car is one thing. Ads that lead to a body image that increases the likelihood of health problems and early death is another.

I think it's counterproductive to describe the very concept of advertising as abusive. Nevertheless, a large class of advertising as practiced on television, the web, and on mobile apps should be avoided. In many cases, I don't even have to venture into the realm of morality or ethics-- they just create such a bad UX (battery drain, autoplaying bullshit, interrupting content flow, double the perceived loudness of what I'm watching) that the only sensible thing for a human to do is remove ads altogether from their viewing/reading experience. It's possible to do that with only a modicum of effort, so that's what a lot of people like me will continuing doing.


Cars represent $1.13 Trillion in consumer debt in the US on an asset that depreciates only slightly slower than fresh produce. Car debt contributes massively to the suppression of the middle class and is a burden many people take to their grave. Financial strain is a leading cause of divorce, and can often spur on depression, which has an immeasurable impact on both human lives and the economy at large.

Cars too are oversold and abusively advertised. And it really is psychological abuse, with horrific outcomes.


No you are conflating two different meanings of "abuse". The definition we should be talking about is: [verb] treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

I believe that is what the parent comment is talking about.


There's a defensible argument that it is, in fact, cruel. It's just been normalized, which is a standard component of effective abuse. If you're in an abusive relationship (familial, romantic, employment, or whatever), it's pretty common to think this is how all such relationships work.

You're correct, that definition is more appropriate.

Companies abuse (misuse) their power over consumers. Consumers are abused by companies through marketing.

I wholly agree with my sibling commenter that it is cruel for companies to market to us with the intent of separating us from our money.


[deleted]


We've reached peak HN, everyone: ads are abuse, breaking and entering, and rape. I guess we're lucky no one has compared them to murder.

I feel bad if any actual victims of these horrific crimes are here; I imagine they wouldn't feel too good about this comparison.


I've been linking this comment thread to friends to have a chuckle. Ads = Abuse, Aggression, Rape!

Yet ads pay for everything that every HNer is too stingy to take out their wallet for, which includes almost every website/service, especially every website smaller than the websites HN likes to hate on.

It's like listening to people justify why they pirate media, crafting elaborate philosophical pieces when in reality they just don't like paying money for things.


It's manipulation of my emotions and invasion of my privacy to extract money from me. No, it's not done at the point of a gun. But it's still reprehensible.

I just re-read Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos and the analogies between the book's AI TechnoCore and today's Ad-tech industry seem very prescient.

Does causing fatal and debilitating diseases like obesity and diabetes count?

Because there are ads selling high sugar and/or fat low nutrient foods to impressionable kids as 'fun'.


Have a look at adverts for toys aimed at kids during children's programming.

> I wonder if the kids ever asked you why companies are doing it?

Actually they ask "why" every time for every thing that I say :) My sons are not yet (to my eyes) sufficiently mature to really hear a thorough answer to "why". I try to make them asking "How?" instead. I'm a hacker, not a philosopher ;)

But, to relate to your answer, I'm not really trying to make them hating ads (thought I hate ads too, like you). Loving and hating things and people is up to them, I'm just giving context and knowledge (ok, sometimes it's hints on my own feelings on important subjects such as religion). That's of course a very personal pov on education.


"Actually they ask "why" every time for every thing that I say :) My sons are not yet (to my eyes) sufficiently mature to really hear a thorough answer to "why". "

I am digressing a bit here, but I strongly encourage you to rethink this.

The act of hearing things they are not sufficiently mature to hear is the very best process for becoming mature in that way.

Of course I am not speaking of prurient matters or horrific tragedies (you should hand them neither Penthouse nor MAUS) but I think you should explain matters like the one at hand clearly, in an adult manner, and with adult vocabulary.

They may not understand more than 10% of it but that lack of understanding is a great challenge and the 10% they do grasp is a foundation for deeper thought.

I have three children and not only do we speak of things that are beyond their ken, with them, but we make a point not to adjust our vocabulary downward when we speak with them. They have risen to the challenge.


I agree! Maybe you misread me, or maybe it's me not having been clear enough: I do expose them to adult speech/logic/vocabulary, it's just that I encourage and arrange the meaningful dialogue to start with a "How" instead of a "Why". It's just semantic (and me hoping that it will spark a scientific interest/method).

I see your POV as mature and I'll strive to do that exactly - not burden the kids with my own prejudices, but instead give them context and knowledge for them to find their preferences on their own.

Ads themselves are only a symptom. I suppose I'm profoundly disappointed in some aspects of our civilization, and the values it promotes, and I want my future kids to avoid such disappointment while still being cooperative players in the world (vs. defectors, in game-theoretic sense).


What I learned while being a father of two is that there is no such thing as objectivity. I have my prejudices. And when I notice one, I tell my kids about that. Including that I probably have a lot of unknown (to me) prejudices too. And that all humans have these.

Thank you for verbalizing something that has been on my mind a lot lately. We seemed to have reached this dystopian state where people will do all sorts of horrible things to others, but they do so with a smile on their face and we excuse the underlying behavior as "efficient" or use other forms of "market-speak" to explain away our treatment of one another. Frankly, I think it's a function of how large we've allowed our organizations (that govern our everyday lives) to become. Large organizations tend to be completely indifferent to the needs of individuals, and we need to start adopting a more proactive approach to breaking up organizations that become so big that they fail to properly serve their constituents anymore.

However, I think I agree with others that ads, in general, do not quite live up to the "abuse" term. But, for kids the term may very well fit and is one of the reasons why there was so much effort put into restricting these kinds of advertising in the past. Unfortunately, though, it seems like we've just thrown our hands up in the air and given up...


I think the vocabulary you use is a little too extreme but I agree with the general premise that ads are a generally a negative thing and we really should reconsider if we, as a society, should be so accepting of them.

I think there was a time when ads made some sense. Before the ultra-connected world being able to actually tell your potential customers that your product existed was a real problem, especially for niche products that wouldn't otherwise be mentioned in mainstream media. If you invented a new type of lightbulb and you wanted to get the word out then buying an ad was a good way to go. In French "advertisement" is called "publicity" which reflects this pretty well I think, it's about making your product publicly known. Somewhat amusingly in Portuguese the word is "propaganda".

But does it really make sense anymore? Nowadays we are overwhelmed with information. I can duckduckgo for "best lightbulb" and get pages and pages of reviews. Word of mouth is easier than ever thanks to social networks (and without having to buy "influencers" to shill your product "organically"). There's no scarcity of information anymore. If your product is good you can get all the "publicity" you need without having to buy "propaganda".

Besides for many big companies it's not even about advertising a product anymore. It's about the brand. Everybody knows about McDonalds and yet you regularly see ads that don't even try to sell you a new burger or anything, just McDonalds as a brand. They want to be a part of your consciousness, a part of your lifestyle. I think the Portuguese people got it right after all.


My company makes pluggable chat components. It's a pretty niche targeted product, and we run some Google ads on the relevant keywords.

Now you're telling me that we're doing "a legitimized way of abuse"? Seriously? Come on. Nothing in the world is this black and white.


I'm not going to write an essay in the comments about nuances of ads (though I might put one up on my blog, even if just to have something to link to in HN comments). But I assume your ads on relevant keywords target active searches, and that your company is building a quality, non-abusive product. That falls on the nicer part of the spectrum[0], but it's also not the kind of ads we're talking about here.

Even search ads could still be made more fair (most of the time, if users are searching for something, do they really want to see ads instead of organic content?), but in my quixotic crusade against the malicious market players, I'd love to first get rid of the spammy ads - both in our digital media and on our physical streets - and ads that lie to people.


Cool, I'm with you there.

Of course it isn't that black and white, and I don't think that was the point. I'd interpret it as: Your company is participating in something that, when looked at as a whole, has become something that you could call a legitimized form of abuse on a societal scale.

You are competing for attention with others, possibly a lot less scrupulous than you.

Advertising is like prisoner's dilemma: Companies are like prisoners and if they go overboard with advertising they are like defecting. If all companies had an agreement to rein themselves in, then there will be a rogue company sucking the attention away.

Then bottom feeders are going to target children.


The worst part about the industry is its a zero sum game. All you are trying to do is redirect dollars that would go somewhere else to your thing. You don't add value in that process, you simply redirect it. And because its an arms race it drives businesses to have ludicrous overhead in the form of marketing to reach the audience of whatever actual thing of value they want to sell.

Its one of the laundry list of things I can imagine a far future enlightened species looking back at us and thinking "wow, they sure wasted trillions of hours and dollars just trying to manipulate each other into spending their money differently".

Its absolutely necessary to participate on the individual level, but on the macroeconomic level it should look to anyone as being completely absurd and a huge waste of potential. Its a lot like overspending on the military - the primary function for advertising is zero sum while for the military it is a negative value, while you hope for circumstantial value to emerge and try to use it as an excuse to justify the whole when advertisers make entertaining ads (see the Superbowl Commercials or Flex Tape) or when the military produces scientific innovation.


> wow, they sure wasted trillions of hours and dollars […]

Well, not money, because the money spent just ends up in someone else's pocket. It doesn't disappear or get consumed in the process. What we are wasting is potential value for society as a whole (the hours you rightly mention).


Hours... and natural resources, including fuels used to generate electricity and provide transportation for ads themselves and all the supporting industries. For instance, meatspace ads involve graphics designers, printing shops, producing and moving paints and paper, and moving the final ads to their destination (and then moving them to landfills).

Advertising is wasting opportunities of people by distracting and misleading them.

Advertising is like a forest. All trees have to invest in tall trunks because if they didn't they'd have no chance against other trees. So they all get as tall trunks as physically possible.

Unfortunately society has almost no use for "advertising trunks" so we should impose intelligent limits on advertising so that the mechanism of informing people what they can buy could be less like forest and more like orchard.


I'm going to venture a guess that you've never run an ad campaign before. If you had, at least a mainstream digital one, you'd find that deceptive tactics don't work all that well. People using them do it to get access to the most vulnerable set of people, who aren't usually people companies are competing to advertise to. If I make an ad that implies you'll get something free, for example, and you click on it to find no free offer, you bounce. That makes my ad unsuccessful, more expensive, and less likely to win auctions.

I think this is a "piling problem".

Lot's of good faith actors putting up lots of reasonable ads still results in a massive ad flood for the individual on the receiving end.

After some point the quality stops mattering, it's the sheer quantity that feels overwhelming.


I guess this might be the first time I've heard of ads being described as a form of abuse. You are probably onto something there. Thanks

Happy people aren’t great consumers. You only buy when you feel like your life is missing something that will get you to happiness.

Therefore, Marketers’ job is to create a lack in you. To make you feel “less than” as you are currently.

That does seem like the same thing a bully would do.


Yup. A sales person I know refers to this as "creating dissatisfaction", and used this concept designing his sales pitches.

How do we stop this?

I even see this in my elderly parents, they will be promoting something they saw on TV usually pandering to them with a catchy jingle or emotional piano/violin background track.

Kids can not even begin to perceive this level of subliminal manipulation and that isn't going to change unless we remove it from their environment and constantly point out the background manipulation. How will you attack this problem with your kids?


I think this might be a case of "Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity." In that, these people literally just want your money, they don't care about helping or hurting you, for the most part, they just want to do business.

Now if you're saying "Children are not old enough to do business with shrewd adults." That's very fair.


What exactly do you mean by "you don't generally have to fear strangers"?

Any random person you pass by on the street is unlikely to hurt you or harbor negative feelings toward you in particular, is unlikely to attack you if approached, and will most likely help in an emergency.

I think this is true, but the problem is the finality of that single one bad event.

If drinking water from the tap resulted in 1 out of every 400000 drinks falling over dead, people wouldn't drink water from the tap.


depends on the marketing. Death rate for driving is worse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-r...

And a lot of people still drive


Sure they would. On average, you'd have to drink 13+ times per day, every day, for 80 years straight, to get killed by such tap water. There are plenty more things in life with worse risk profiles (e.g. cars, like 'unionpivo mentions).

Read a little of The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond and you'll get some surprising answers to this question. tl;dr in many places people who couldn't prove consanguinity would essentially have to attack each other due to a prisoner's dilemma dynamic. The idea of seing a stranger and just walking past them is actually quite new.

> The reason I hate ads is because it's a legitimized way of abuse, of hurting other people...

Everyone on this thread hates ads, but that's a stretch there bud.


[flagged]


Please don't bring social justice activism to this. Even if white, straight, christian, cisgendered males get harassed 10x less than everyone else, the baseline level of physical safety in the western world (particularly outside US) is so great that this distinction doesn't matter to the point I was trying to make.

I don't understand why that stereotype would matter? I've gotten directions from a drug dealer when lost at 2am. The guy practically drew me a map. I've hitchhiked and picked up hitchhikers in the middle of the night. Race and Creed were irrelevant in those situations. They were random people of various ethnicities, I can't speak for their religious beliefs nor do I care, but they were total strangers.

Edit: So I don't even understand why you assumed the GPs race, gender or Creed. It's that sort of thinking that is detrimental to society.


Our girls had an iPad mini each since they were 8 and 9. No real restrictions except occasional 'no devices' days and evenings, or, "you've played with that enough time to do something else". I get to approve all apps, but I've never actually found a reason to refuse one. A lot of the games they pay are ad supported.

They're going to get exposed to ads whether I like it or not, and I'd rather they learned what they are, how they work and to just deal with and ignore them. You don't build up a resistance to germs by living in an antiseptic environment your whole life, and I think it's the same with ads. We make sure our girls have plenty of physical and mental activities to enjoy. Both of them love art and use our computers and iPads for drawing, sketching and painting as well as physical media. They're both musical playing the piano and flute, and occasionally play around with Garage Band and such but visual arts is their main thing. We encourage outdoors activities, they went horse riding for years but that's died off and they've both been in the Air Cadets here in the UK for about a year. To me it's about balance and encouraging responsibility.

We're very much guiding our kids childhoods our way, the choices we make for them open some avenues but inevitably close off others. That seems to be working fine for us, but I've got no problem with your way. They're your kids and I fully understand why youre taking the approach you are. I just don't think it's the only responsible attitude.


A middle ground approach from my experience: whenever I would watch tv with my mother, back in the ancient era before Netflix, she would always, always mute the tv when the ads came on.

The ads were there, but we had that power over them.


I’m shuddering at the thought of when it becomes impossible to be able to mute advertisements.

I realize that you likely meant in home/on device, but in some places it already is.

Delta planes with in-seat screens play ads pre-takeoff, and you can't turn them off or mute them. (Or at least you couldn't when I last tried several years ago. That customer abuse was the last time I flew Delta.)

The other day I went to get gas and was subjected to in-pump ads that I couldn't turn off or mute.

It may not be coming to our televisions soon, but it's already there in many other places.


Somewhere (possibly Reddit?) I learned about the unlabeled mute button for gas station TV ads. For certain pumps there are two rows of five or six unlabeled white buttons on the left and right of the screen - pressing the second button from the top on the right hand side of the screen mutes the blaring advertisement for me about 50% of the time. The times it works is pure bliss. YMMV but it's worth a try.

Failing that, just press all the buttons you can find that don't immediately look like they'll cancel your transaction. I've found them all over the place. And I've found pumps that don't have any apparent mute buttons. But not very often.

Whereas I'm reveling that I can do network watermark analysis, do a bit of time-shifting so the analyzer is seeing footage in the future, and implement my own auto-mute.

Or, at least, this is on the medium-term todo list, and I hope I get to play with it someday. Obviously can't really commercialize the idea... :)


please drink validation can

My gf hates when I mute commercials, and I hate when I don't mute commercials. Rarely a problem as we mostly watch Netflix. In my house my dad ran 2 VHS machines and 2 beta machines, commercials were muted if we watched them at all. They still run at least 2 dual tuner PVR's.

How do you control the content your children are exposed to once they go to school?

I remember being shocked about a decade ago that a group of 3rd graders had seen The Hangover(a rated R movie) without the permission of their parents. When I asked how they were able to do this without their parents knowing, they almost laughed at me.

The idea that their parents could effectively censor the content they consumed was not something they understood. There was always someone with a phone, computer, laptop, USB key, DVD, etc.

When kids are young and you(or a loved one) has eyes on them 24/7 it’s easy to control their lives, and the content they are exposed to. I’m very curious as to how parents effectively censor the world for older kids who are around other kids, without turning into the dreaded “helicopter” parent.

It seems like an overwhelming challenge.


I hate to break it to you but children being exposed to "unsavory" things outside of parental supervision is part of growing up. It's called street smarts.

Ever watch watch south park? Then you know who Kenny is and how dysfunctional his family is. Every kid meets a Kenny in their lifetime. They're the kid who knows where his parents porn stash is kept and by 13 is raiding their parents booze and drug stash. He's the kid whose house you go to watch R films and look at hustler magazines (I'm dating myself here). They also most likely had a hacked cable box with the playboy channel. In their bedroom.

Of course your parents told you to stay away "from that boy". But after school you tell your parents you're "going to John's house to study" but instead you and a few other friends meet up at "Kenny's" place ;-). Though, It's not all porn and bad things. It's just a great place to hang out and play ball or nintendo or whatever because no one is telling you to study or do homework. It's pure rebellious freedom and it's exciting.

You can't shield your kids forever. And the more you shield them the worse prepared they are for the harsh realities of the world. The best approach is to educate your kids of dangers and and hope for the best. Teach them about sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, violence, abuse, behavioral issues, etc. Make sure they know what can be potentially harmful. My mother and father did a good job of that so I knew when to hang back and say "no thanks". I stayed away from drinking and drushguse my who adolescent life.


So I'm broadly sympathetic to that point of view, but I think you also have to account for the changes in the world since you or I grew up. I didn't grow up in a world where dozens of PhDs were using massive targeted AI computations to figure out how to manipulate me. I didn't have online Skinner boxes backed by, again, a horde of PhDs or equivalents with every motivation to separate me from my money, time, and attention. You need to present your children with some challenges and help them overcome it, but you can't put them in a cage match with the entire modern advertising industry, or expect them to figure out YouTube and the rather exploitative practices and dodgy videos kids can dig up, all on their own at the age of 5 either. I didn't grow up in a world of social media, and all the pathologies that come with it, many of which are probably much worse for developing minds than when I finally had a chance to get into it. (And, in fact, I've never had a Facebook account, and my Twitter account was created just for a couple of stupid sites that used it for auth; it's unused by me. The adult me rejected those sites from the get-go.)

I did grow up with some smart people trying to manipulate me in between cartoon breaks. (Personally I tended not to watch the most exploitative "cartoons that are just ads for toys" sorts myself, but YMMV. It wasn't my own brilliance, though, just my personal taste.) But it was very amorphous and poorly targeted at me personally. There's no AI chewing over my video preferences and figuring out what I'm most vulnerable to. It made for much better practice in becoming a bit cynical about such things. I also grew up in a world of video games, but again, the feedback loop was too big and amorphous to manipulate me very effectively. It was still potentially addicting, no question, but much, much less so than a modern mobile gacha game or something.

I'm taking a staggered approach myself. I know they have to learn themselves. I'm literally budgeting for them to buy a few things of their own free will, and then be disappointed in the result. It's part of life, and like many things, better experienced young while it still doesn't really matter. But I'm also moderating the rate at which this stuff comes in to them, because I'm not even particularly convinced it was a fair fight in the 1980s when I grew up, and it's not even close today.


On top of that, kids develop differently at different ages. Pre-school is extremely important as it's foundation building time. Get the, addicted to tech from day 1 and they'll have lots of issues later on. But if they learn the ropes in a healthy way, they'll have a good foundation once they meet "Kenny" later on.

Show them a patient on dialysis machine and say “this will be you if you if you think I’m bsing you”

> How do you control the content your children are exposed to once they go to school?

Not OP, but in my opinion it should be pretty easy to control undesirable content. Nobody likes ads; I see no reason for the kids to actively seek out ads once they know what ads really are.

As far as controlling "desirable" content like movies, games, etc, I'm not sure it should be, but that's a rant for another day!


> Nobody likes ads

Right, adults who are fully aware of the purpose of advertising don't, e.g., actively look forward to Superbowl half-time ads.


There's a difference between being curious about Super Bowl ads (which cost millions to air and are vetted) and the garbage that are internet ads where anyone with a (potentially stolen) credit card can publish anything they want with no oversight.

The former can be considered a form of art; the latter is just cancer.


There's also a difference between entertainment and mere engagement. Superbowl ads are entertaining. They may be trying to influence your decisions, but they ultimately leave you with the feeling that you have your own free will intact.

The mere engagement of internet ads is often just a crude attempt to program peoples decisions by pressing all the right psychological buttons.

Of course, Superbowl ads arguably press those same buttons, but I tend to think that typical online ads are optimized to press those buttons as hard as possible all the time. Being subjected to that is exhausting and frustrating.

Incidentally, that's why I decided to quit playing MMO's (and most video games) 10 years ago.


It’s about the stages of brain development, and providing choice and education to kids at the level they’re ready for. The hope is that by the time they are exposed to things on their own, you’ve equipped them with the skills and habits they need to navigate the world.

The reason for my gray hairs is that the kids are always ready for the next level of freedom before I am :) Whether it’s the taller swing set, climbing that tree, etc.

It’s a fine line between helicoptering and protecting. And the line is always shifting. My two year old isn’t ready to climb a tree on her own; but soon, she’ll be able to.

So, you can’t protect forever — nor should you. But you can continually stretch their personal responsibility and prepare for what’s coming up on the horizon.


Has another commenter said, and I agree with him, as kids grows into teenage age, supporting and explaining is more efficient than controlling.

>I’m very curious as to how parents effectively censor the world for older kids who are around other kids, without turning into the dreaded “helicopter” parent.

If you don't let kids above the age of 6 play on their own with no adult supervision, then you're already a helicopter parent. You might be a milder version of it, but you'll produce some of the same dependence.

At the age of 7 go to school on their own and come back home on their own. They often play unsupervised and walk around town on their own. You cannot stop kids from being exposed to content you disapprove of without being a helicopter parent.


Well, that is a strange school, such a viewing would cause nationwide outrage if it happened in my country.

Even in the best schools, it’s impossible to have eyes on what every kid is watching all day. You can ban technology, but even then clever kids will figure out a way to get them in.

I also don’t believe the viewing was done in school, but the kids were classmates who met in school.


I'm perennially confused by the opinions expressed on HN and this is is no exception; the range alone is quite amazing.

I am with you.

I think advertisers —and the people implementing their work— are a net bad, at all ages. They are actively and openly trying to force influence on people to get them to spend money. Why would you want that for yourself, let alone your kids?

"But they'll never learn!" - the hell they wont. You don't need to cut your leg off to know it'll hurt. Talking about this stuff, as you have, is the perfect way to expose them to what's actually going on. The unfettered "Let them learn their own way" nonsense doesn't do it justice.

"My kids are fine!" is an anecdote, not an argument. How about one of the dozens of reviews of the impacts of junk food advertising on diet, spurring record rates of childhood obesity? https://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx

I don't get it. Your right to hold your own opinion is an important thing. Letting people (and now AI) openly influence you is a stupid decision. Letting them do the same to your children is much worse.

And what I originally came here to say was that I applaud you getting your kids on real computers. The education system —in general— has given up on educating computing because "kids know how to use everything". 20 years ago, we were taught how to use office productivity apps (eg MS Office), mostly worked into other lessons as part of the (eg) data collection (eg Bio, Geography).

Ask today's school leavers to make you a pivot table.

Edit: The only place I might deviate from you is internet access. I've got a few years before self-learning is a thing for my children, but when they're ready, I'll be more than happy to give them access to Wikipedia and other sanitised (read: ad free, "people aren't the product") learning resources.


>I think advertisers —and the people implementing their work— are a net bad, at all ages. They are actively and openly trying to force influence on people to get them to spend money. Why would you want that for yourself, let alone your kids?

Because you want to learn about new products in some way, don't you? You also want companies to create new products, don't you? Advertisement is a necessary part in both of these. Few things spread fast enough with word of mouth alone.

>"My kids are fine!" is an anecdote, not an argument. How about one of the dozens of reviews of the impacts of junk food advertising on diet, spurring record rates of childhood obesity? https://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx

The article does not claim that it's a causal link. They quite clearly say that it's a correlation. The causal link could even be the other way around.

>Letting people (and now AI) openly influence you is a stupid decision. Letting them do the same to your children is much worse.

How do you propose that you or your kids learn knowledge? That's letting other people influence you.

My guess is that your kids will pick up these "negative influences" anyway, but they will never tell you.


> Because you want to learn about new products in some way, don't you

Since when is somebody shouting about their random product the only way I can learn things? Active discovery is still a thing.

Make something, make details available. If people need it, they will find it and buy it.

> You also want companies to create new products, don't you?

No, I want better products that I actually need, not more, or just newer.

> They quite clearly say that it's a correlation. The causal link could even be the other way around.

We're reading different things if that was your takeaway. You sound like an asbestos salesman in the 50s.

You seem to hold your own mind in pretty low disregard, needing to be spoon fed to discover. You can be more than an idle consumer.


>Since when is somebody shouting about their random product the only way I can learn things? Active discovery is still a thing.

Sure. Let's say you want to learn about a new product through "active discovery." What do you do that doesn't involve other people telling you that it's good?

>Make something, make details available. If people need it, they will find it and buy it.

Discord became so popular because it's good, right? Not at all because they advertised and sponsored the hell out of things, right?

>No, I want better products that I actually need, not more, or just newer.

And with no advertising nobody is going to bother improving their products, because nobody new will be able to compete.

>We're reading different things if that was your takeaway.

It says quite directly that research has found associations. That's a correlation and not causation.

>You seem to hold your own mind in pretty low disregard, needing to be spoon fed to discover. You can be more than an idle consumer.

I've tried making things and found out the hard way how difficult it is for whatever I made to be found.


Look, I disagree.

Not only is is painfully obvious that you can still compare things, the drive to improve is a natural side effect of still being able to compare on factors. Advertising isn't part of this loop. It's there to buy influence.

Most of the crap I buy on Amazon or Ebay, or in the supermarket; that is to say, 90% of my purchases don't involve advertising. I bought them because I wanted them.


I've been paying for Youtube Premium (was "Youtube Red") for a while. While there are product placements and sponsorships in videos, not having to watch ads placed in the middle of videos is awesome. It makes YT a million times better, it isn't something you realize fully until you start watching a video on somebody else's phone/laptop/etc.

This comment is only my own opinion:

I believe you're teaching your children to be children instead of teaching them to be people. You're creating an advertisement free bubble for them to live in - once they're living on their own, they'll lack experience dealing with exposure to advertisement.

You see benefit in the teaching opportunities in the times your kids are exposed. I'd argue you would have more teaching opportunities if they were exposed more often. The sooner they see it's a part of every day life, the sooner they'll be equipped to handle it on their own.

That said, maybe this is hypocritical. I stop my daughter from doing things I know will harm her (using knives, seeing scary things), maybe I'm just not being cautious enough about what I shield her from.


At some age you are correct, but I don't think 5 or 7 is it. Kid's reasoning skills just aren't developed enough yet at 5 to really understand what advertisers' motives are. Exposure will do little more than desensitize them to ads and instead let their subconscious absorb the message.

I'd rather my kids find ads jarring when they are exposed en masse to them rather than be too comfortable around them.

There are a lot of things that 5 and 7 year olds shouldn't be exposed to yet, not just ads.


>Exposure will do little more than desensitize them to ads and instead let their subconscious absorb the message.

This isn't how it works. If a kid sees ads repeatedly then it initially increases their preference for them, but later lowers that preference again. Overabundance of ads will desensitize kids to them and will make them less interested in them. You shielding your kids from ads will likely make them more affected by ads when they get a glimpse of them here and there.

Ads that affect you subconsciously are not the type you see on TV or on a poster. The subconscious effects of ads come from things like your kid repeatedly seeing you using tide pods to wash their clothes.


> Exposure will do little more than desensitize them to ads and instead let their subconscious absorb the message.

Good point. I guess helpings kids to learn to think objectively in general is the key to helping them think objectively about the things we shield them from when they're young.


Agree there a lot of things kids don’t need, and the teenage years are a better time to expose them.

I get your point, yet I'm not sure it reflects the (nuanced, as always) reality.

They're not really in a bubble: they're exposed to ads outside of home (TV at other places, Cinema, street boards, on city buses...).

I hope that this clear separation between "no ads/home" and "ads/outside" is sufficient to cross a threshold in their mind which makes them thinks "Ads are not meant to be ubiquitous".

And when I notice that this threshold is being crossed, then I'm here to tell them "looks, choosing if we're exposed to ads in on us!".

And I hope that this low-age learning will help them later in life (more or less >12/15, imo).


> I hope that this clear separation between "no ads/home" and "ads/outside" is sufficient to cross a threshold in their mind which makes them thinks "Ads are not meant to be ubiquitous".

This helps me understand. You've convinced me of your approach - thank you. :)


Disregarding everything else, ads are a waste of time.

I'd rather my kids be reading than sitting thru ads.


They are a waste of time, but they're everywhere. If your kids don't understand the basics of ads, or advertisers' motives, they'll struggle to respond to ads in a healthy way.

It's not like OP was saying he kept his children deliberately unaware of what ads are, he just limited exposure as much as possible. I'm sure if OP's kid saw an ad, he would explain it to them / advertiser's motives.

But the idea that "more exposure" to ads makes you somehow more resilient to them is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Does Facebook make people more well-adjusted? Does instagram make people less inclined to be shallow? Does increased time on Twitter make people less vitriolic?

When digital networks have an adverse effect on the human psyche (mainly ad networks and social networks), the solution is very demonstrably not "just watch more and you'll become inoculated against them".


Ads are literally everywhere. If it were easy or possible to prevent kids from seeing ads, then I'd be able to avoid ads myself, but that's basically impossible. Nearly all manufactured products have logos on them, and that's literally just the beginning.

If old enough teach her how to use a knife instead of shielding. 5-6 year olds can and do use knives under supervision.

My son (9 years old) is turning into a Fortnite addict. I'm blaming myself for allowing online games. I've built him a PC so he could learn how to program. Sometimes we experiment with Unity together, sometimes we spend time in Python. But lately Fortnite is grabbing him more and more, and he spends all his allowed time (1.5 hours per day) there, so there's no time left for exploring other things. He can't control himself. He spends his savings on virtual items, significant amounts. He just blew $40 worth of his savings on virtual stuff.

I Googled for "fortnite addiction" and was shocked how many similar stories there are. It is an epidemy. Game shops are exploiting advanced psychological tactics to turn young generation into addicts.

I am thinking more and more that this should be regulated. There should be a set of rules that a game shouldn't break. For example, prohibiting sales of items, or putting a cap on that. No gambling. A user should be able to pause a game without being punished. And so on... Isn't there a way at all? I understand this is stepping on personal liberties, but it hurts to know dudes in Epic Games are stuffing their wallets while young kids are breaking their banks to buy virtual pistols and don't have ways to exit that world without taking a hit. Especially since playgrounds are empty and streets are not playgrounds anymore.

I blame myself.


Fortnite is T-rated, meaning that it's suitable for ages 13+. But as a parent it's your choice what you allow your kids to do, however it's still your job to raise your children, not the government's.

>A user should be able to pause a game without being punished.

Good luck pausing multiplayer games.

>Isn't there a way at all? I understand this is stepping on personal liberties, but it hurts to know dudes in Epic Games are stuffing their wallets while young kids are breaking their banks to buy virtual pistols and don't have ways to exit that world without taking a hit.

He's your kid. You're the one that's letting him make those transactions. He doesn't earn money on his own and most methods of payment require parental approval.

>I blame myself.

It is your fault, but chances are pretty good that he'll simply get over it one day. As long as he keeps his grades up and behaves normally you probably shouldn't be too worried about it. On the other hand, if it is an epidemic as you claimed above then your kid will simply be the norm and not an outlier.


> I blame myself.

This is a narrative the game industry has been successfully pushing through organized PR campaigns and astroturfing online discussions, of course parents share some responsibility but this angle is disingenuous and lets publishers off the hook too easily. I wouldn't beat yourself up too much here you're aware of the situation and actively involved in fixing it.

> Game shops are exploiting advanced psychological tactics to turn young generation into addicts.

This + the instantly available secondary market which allows you to gamble with your digital goods/currency is the major difference between this and it's predecessor: baseball/pokemon/magic the gathering card packs.

Belgium/EU are making strong moves on this but very doubtful we'll see any movement in the US anytime soon, a New Hampshire senator dared to question the situation and was blasted by an aggressive letter from the ESRB claiming loot boxes are not at all gambling.

The games industry is uniquely positioned to allow for this kind of abuse because the primary targets (marks) are unorganized young children that don't know any better. Most games are just a vessel for the 'marketplace' which is an online casino for kids. The current state of gaming is shocking, regulation is desperately needed.


>This is a narrative the game industry has been successfully pushing through organized PR campaigns and astroturfing online discussions, of course parents share some responsibility but this angle is disingenuous and lets publishers off the hook too easily. I wouldn't beat yourself up too much here you're aware of the situation and actively involved in fixing it.

It is almost entirely the parents' fault. Parents are the ones that have to raise their children, especially when the parents are letting the kid play a game that's meant for somebody 4+ years older.

>This + the instantly available secondary market which allows you to gamble with your digital goods/currency is the major difference between this and it's predecessor: baseball/pokemon/magic the gathering card packs.

But those exact same things happened with those games too. The reason those card games weren't so popular was that they weren't as fun and they were prohibitively expensive.

>Belgium/EU are making strong moves on this but very doubtful we'll see any movement in the US anytime soon, a New Hampshire senator dared to question the situation and was blasted by an aggressive letter from the ESRB claiming loot boxes are not at all gambling.

The EU might agree, but that's because the EU makes all kinds of decisions to curb the freedom of its citizens. I say this as a European. And the reason why the ESRB told that senator that lootboxes are not gambling is because they do not fall under the legal definition of gambling.

>Most games are just a vessel for the 'marketplace' which is an online casino for kids. The current state of gaming is shocking, regulation is desperately needed.

I find it ironic that you're asking for regulation on a topic you seem to be completely ignorant of. Most games do not even have a marketplace. What's shocking about gaming is the amount of misinformation floating around. I guess this is our generation's "video games cause violence."


>It is almost entirely the parents' fault. Parents are the ones that have to raise their children, especially when the parents are letting the kid play a game that's meant for somebody 4+ years older.

That just isn't true. Game publishers and developers these days use psychological tricks to keep people engaged and paying money into them.

>The EU might agree, but that's because the EU makes all kinds of decisions to curb the freedom of its citizens. I say this as a European. And the reason why the ESRB told that senator that lootboxes are not gambling is because they do not fall under the legal definition of gambling.

Lootboxes are gambling no matter how you try to justify them. You pay money for the chance to win a prize with no guarantee you will. Protecting your citizens from predatory practices is not curbing the freedom of it's citizens.

>I find it ironic that you're asking for regulation on a topic you seem to be completely ignorant of. Most games do not even have a marketplace. What's shocking about gaming is the amount of misinformation floating around. I guess this is our generation's "video games cause violence."

There's 2 reasons games don't have marketplaces, neither are because these companies have a heart and want to stop gambling. One is that a marketplace requires trading of some kind. Trading can reduce their income on usually cosmetic items. Look at Overwatch, there's no marketplace because Activision Blizzard know they can make more money through just lootboxes because most people only want a skin for a specific character not a random chance to get something they probably don't want. The other reason is they don't want to be associated with "real gambling". Everyone's seen what's happened with Valve and the fire they've been coming under for just ignoring third party gambling sites for years. But they obviously don't care about the consumer when they're using the same tactics as slot machines to get them to spend as much money as possible.


>That just isn't true. Game publishers and developers these days use psychological tricks to keep people engaged and paying money into them.

"Psychological tricks."

Do you use that term to describe your restaurant experience as well? "The cook used psychological tricks to make the food more delicious."

People have simply figured out what others like and made games more in line with that. Yes, they are psychological tricks, but almost everything humans create employ psychological tricks of some kind to make the experience better.

>Lootboxes are gambling no matter how you try to justify them.

Not according to the law.

>You pay money for the chance to win a prize with no guarantee you will.

There is a guarantee that you will get something every time.

>There's 2 reasons games don't have marketplaces, neither are because these companies have a heart and want to stop gambling.

A business is not supposed to "have a heart." It makes absolutely no sense to expect that. A free market doesn't actually work if you expect people "to have a heart."

The reason why most games don't have marketplaces is that most games do not have a large amount of players or it does not fit into the theme of the game. It simply is not worth the effort to implement such a system for most games.

>But they obviously don't care about the consumer when they're using the same tactics as slot machines to get them to spend as much money as possible.

Do you know what else uses the same tactics as slot machines? Almost everything that involves people. Humans seem to enjoy getting rewarded in a semi-random manner more than consistently. This even includes people interacting with one another. We grow more attached to people who sometimes treat us coldly than people who always treat us nicely.

I don't know if you use these terms on purpose or if it's simply an accident, but the way you refer to things such as "just like slot machines" or "this is gambling because xyz simplification" shows that you're trying to evoke an emotional reaction to paint something in a negative light. Those types of arguments don't work when the other person isn't emotionally invested in the same values as you.

I loathe lootboxes. I think they're disgusting, but I also understand that this kind of demand for regulation will only hurt players. If other people don't like lootboxes as well, then the market will take care of it. If the market doesn't take care of it then it turns out that some people do like lootboxes. You can then have a niche for games that have and games that don't have lootboxes.


That really sucks to hear. As I used to be a gaming addict myself as a child, I know that banning games for children absolutely does not work. He will find a way around it and he will learn not to trust you.

Perhaps induce degraded connection for Fortnite in particular, via some router-level hacks? Just an idea, but it could be catastrophic if your son figures out. Hopefully he would be mature enough by then to understand.


That doesn't sound so bad. When I was younger, I probably spent $2000 into Yu-gi-oh! cards and tournaments over the course of a couple years. An hour of Counter-Strike each day wasn't that unusual, either. I have very fond memories of my time playing those games.

The question is whether they are happy with their choices.


We do the same here, but there is no proprietary software, only FOSS.

The 3 year old knows how to start his own netbook which has ArchLinux with KDE on it, and he knows how to start the potato-guy game. And he learned to use the touchpad, which is nice. Thats all he does computing wise, the smartphone is not trustworthy (despite being LineageOS with no google on it, the Android interface is just too convulsed) to be exposed to toddler yet. The TV is used to watch educational shows like songs of letters and numbers, through kodi, the TV cant even tune in to normal TV channels, only content I placed on Kodi for him to find if he ever learns to use its remote.

So far this 3 year old speaks like a 5 year old, understands 3 languages, and can read 3-4 letter words, has friends and creative mind when drawing stuff.


My son was very proud of himself the day he showed me how the remote worked. Before that, the kids could only see tv if they asked my wife or me.

And they only got kodi.

On my side, I was also very proud, because he was almost seven when it happened !

We managed to « force » them using their toys or play outside instead of spending worthless time in front of a screen. I like to think (hope ?) it’s the right thing to do.


Man, I wish someone would tell my 1 year old that TV remote is off limits. He knows exactly what it does. Grabs it and starts pressing buttons to turn on TV. Of course he can’t navigate to Netflix unless he hits that button but he tries them all.

To be honest and for context : 1) I’m French so maybe we don’t have TV on all the times (not saying that it’s true in the US, but it’s the impression I have from here. I might also be totally wrong. And in France a lot of people have TV on most of the time. But my wife and I don’t)

2) our kids (they’re twins) saw their first cartoon around 2,5 yo. They didn’t seen a TV on before that. And of course it fascinated them as any screen can do. It was Cars and I show them in 4 parts on 4 consecutive days.

3) Our TV is plugged on a RPI with kodi and you couldn’t use it with the TV remote (only with our smartphones) until they were 5 (and I bought a TV compatible with Anynet), so even if they managed to start the tv, they couldn’t go further. Maybe they did, maybe not, but they never told us if they did :)


> So far this 3 year old speaks like a 5 year old, understands 3 languages, and can read 3-4 letter words, has friends and creative mind when drawing stuff.

Pretty much every parent says something like this about their child


That's a pretty condescending cliché, in my opinion and experience.

Personally, I've never heard a parent say anything like that about their kid and my own kids were nowhere near that advanced at that age.

Every (15-20 at the last kids birthday party I attended) parent I know give pretty realistic accounts of their child's development and are pretty humble about their own deficiencies or challenges as parents.


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"Yes, you can have your own computer, but only if you build your own distro"

Well, in my day you had to solder your own computer. A ZX81 no less. If you wanted to play a game then you had to type it in hexcode and debug it first. Plus you were only allowed a mono TV that used valves so that it would die of thermal runaway after two hours.

I actually wish I was joking.


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I'd hate to be a 3 year old again too :-)

>We do the same here, but there is no proprietary software, only FOSS.

Are you also vegan? ;)


One of these actually has a justification!

My children are allowed to play on Fire tablets only during car trips, and only until the battery runs dry. The funny thing is, all the games stop working in between uses -- they expect to be able to phone home frequently, and most of the time they're on, they're not connected to the internet. So every long trip is preceded by a cycle of tablet charging and installing new games. When one of my kids asked me why we had to do this, I explained that we were able to get these tablets so cheap because Amazon and the game publishers get to be in control of what's on there. This led to an interesting conversation about the difference between tablets and laptops, and why Frozen Bubble and Tux Paint never stop working.

The game content is basically all branded characters.


I really laud your approach and hope I can do something similar. What concerns me though is how the challenge will become magnified as children get exposed to their classmates' phones and other gadgets, etc. And you lose control of your environment. Have you thought about how you'd like to deal with the future challenges ahead?

What you need to keep in mind is that you can't control every aspect of your child's life as they grow older. For example friends and access to multimedia outside of your home.

What you should provide is an open ear. Listen to the experiences of your child, explain things regarding why things are the way they are and provide guidelines, how to act responsibly.

The most important thing in my opinion is, that you as a parent should stay involved and always be open for dialog. And have faith in your child to make sensible decisions.


It's concerning me too. I'm just going into it one step at a time ;)

Ah why can't I favourite a comment. I just had a baby girl 2 weeks ago, and the wife and I agree to not having her on cellphone/tablet with games and such, becoming antisocial. When we have dinner, no phones, we sit and eat as a family. I really hate seeing kids on phones watching cartoons or playing games while at dinner.

Congratulations! And I wish you luck: the few new families I know all said no tablets/chocolate etc but succumbed. I don't judge them. Sleep deprivation and full time jobs make it very difficult to be a "perfect" parent.

Thank you!!! I’m pretty determined to not have a kid glued to a screen. So I’ll do my best. Intend to ready story books to her a lot and get her interested in reading. I don’t have any tablets. So that’s a plus. (Gave iPad to Mother in law)

> Ah why can't I favourite a comment.

You can. Click on the timestamp of that comment, and the "favourite" link will be there.


AH THANK YOU!!!!

My 1 year old watches Netflix kids singing show. I am not proud of it but it has been a life saver given how difficult he can be.

If you're worried about Netflix influencing your child, consider going with a local Plex server with the educational content you want to serve.

FYI: clicking on the "47 minutes ago" bit of a comment header takes you to the comment page, which has a "favorite" link.

Your strategy pretty much mirrors mine exactly. with a few exceptions. The grandparents got my son a Leap Pad, which we let him play a couple hours on weekends and they play iPad games when they're over the grandparent's when they visit once a week.

I've noticed the same things as you when my kids watch ads at the grandparent's. Their reactions show advertising to children for exactly what it is - taking advantage of young minds that cannot defend themselves.

We have a smart TV that has it's network access controlled by my router that limits their screen time. My daughter has a clam shell phone to call us in case of emergency but neither child will never have a smart phone as long as they're in my house.

I've plainly told the wife's family do not buy my kids any more technology without asking us first because it will end up in the garbage. I don't accept the opinion that these technologies are benign, especially from people like my wife's family who have never actually given the subject any serious or considered thought.


Father of primary school aged girls here.

Before the kids came the plan was a low tech kids home, reality then smacked us in the face and we compromised.

Kids have their own Amazon Fire Kids Unlimited tablets. Which is fairly locked down to their age groups and with no internet and only 30 minutes of app & videos allowed on school days, though unlimited books. The weekends are more generous. (I do love parents.amazon.com)

Also added Netflix and BBC Iplayer Kids apps, and they watch BBC's CBeebies channel on the lounge TV occasionally. So normally they never see any ads.

But sometimes shit has hit the fan, and they have to be up late watching a commercial kids channel on TV or borrow my phone to play games then they are exposed to ads.

I then try to explain to them that ads are not necessarily true. They are trying to sell you something that you might not need or is as good as it pretends to be. Don't think that has sunk in yet.

But they seem relatively shielded for now. But they have not got their own phones yet. I dread that day.


Amazon freetime does a pretty good job of curating the apps that are available, even going to the level of getting custom versions of popular apps with the ads and social media features removed.

That doesn't stop blatant adver-games showing up (I'm looking at you, Ever After High), but even there, the advertising is the same sort of environment advertising that we saw 30 years ago in GI Joe and He-Man. That's not new.


What age do you think is appropriate to introduce them to the internet? I'm sure at the moment you're pretty safe, but at some point your kids are gonna be introduced to it in IT classes at school, and by staying at friends' houses.

I'd want to get in first to teach responsible internet use (of course with a good ad blocker and whitelisting of domains). There's some really good educational stuff out there on YouTube and elsewhere. I think I would have loved to have watched a channel like Clickspring when I was younger.


> What age do you think is appropriate to introduce them to the internet?

My personal stake on this is: they're just barely starting to learn how to count, read and write. It's way too much early to have them seat before a whiteboard and hearing me speaking and drawing schemas about TCP/IP, subnets masks, transport and routing protocols, HTTP, HTML/JS hosting and delivery and finally what's going on in that blackbox that we call "a browser".


But how will they get the 15 years of web development experience required for their first internship if they don’t start young?

Then I may have to reconsider my point of view, based on that new information I'm glad you made me aware of :)

Love this response. So many here are advocating building up a tolerance to the garbage of the internet instead of learning the important parts.

This is what it means to be computer literate, not snapchat experience, which will be another myspace in five years.


I think it's a terrible response. That is far beyond what it means to be computer literate. That just seems like he's forcing his kids to become programmers.

"No, Claire, no internet until you learn how BGP hijacks work!" Who does that? Half of human progress in computers has been hiding all of the technical stuff behind a magic curtain. It's cool if your kids want to take a peek behind it, but to force it on them is just so strange.


> Who does that?

Appeal to authority/tradition as an argument for ignorance? Not very compelling.


Hmm, it was a joke, actually.

Word. I like the idea of a desktop with no internet! What's the best offline encyclopedia in 2018 these days?

Our family has a TV on wheels that gets put in the closet and brought out primarily on weekends. Just an Apple TV with a few ad-free channels. When my 7 yo comes home from school and discovers the TV has been put away, he just goes and plays with his legos!

My phone has no games, but it has lots of apps for making music, and the kids are in to that (See Figure from Propellerhead/Allihoopa).


> What's the best offline encyclopedia in 2018 these days?

Probably Wikipedia? You can download a copy of it in your preferred language.

I've been thinking about doing so, and would be interested if anyone has a favorite viewer.


I'm not sure Wikipedia would be the best choice—you want kids to understand it's not a definitive information source and that you need to check the citation links for anything serious.

To be very, very clear, I'm not anti-Wikipedia, I just think a "real" encyclopedia would be much better.

Britannica stills sells DVD's that can be used offline.


> I'm not sure Wikipedia would be the best choice—you want kids to understand it's not a definitive information source and that you need to check the citation links for anything serious.

That's, like, one of the first things we were taught about using an encyclopedia as a tool for research papers in elementary school, long before Wikipedia or even the Web was a thing.

That's kind of the nature of tertiary sources, particularly broad-focus ones that boil down complex domains to short articles, including print encyclopedias.

> To be very, very clear, I'm not anti-Wikipedia, I just think a "real" encyclopedia would be much better.

The actual reviews that have been done, starting with Nature’s in 2005, have not supported the conclusion that Britannica or other print encyclopedias are much better than Wikipedia, either in terms of accuracy of factual content or in terms of things like providing appropriate citations.


> But they have to enter one command on the little Bluetooth keyboard (and they do!).

That's a cute little touch.

Sad that the Play Store does not have a curated kids' section with pay-once, ad free and in-app purchase free apps (on the other hand, I can regard this as a concession to the fact that it's ultimately my responsibility as a parent to vet apps).


It's probably more of a concession to the fact that in-app purchases is where the money is.

> It's probably more of a concession to the fact that in-app purchases is where the money is.

I'm having an ethically generous day ...


Pretty drastic, I'd say.

My 10 y.o. has a tablet, with internet access, and even Youtube enabled. But:

* Youtube is paid (no ads);

* All apps are either free without ads, or paid and thus without ads.

* No network-played games, no addictive (bejeweled-style) games. I curate the apps that get installed.

* There's a Linux PC with a browser (ad-blocked), and a bunch of drawing and educational programs; it also serves as a "TV" for stuff stored on local NAS. She started to draw using a desktop computer when she was 5.5; by now, she can read and type in two languages, and nobody systematically taught her typing.

This opens up a lot of great educational content, and filters out most of the silly or addictive content.


Counter natrative. My daughter is 6. She has an iPad (wifi) and an iPhone 6+ (with cell service). She learned to use them herself, and tne only thing off limits are toy opening videos. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of brand names and all the backstory for the LOL dolla or whatever she is into these days. She also gets perfect grades (as they are in kindergarten), is active in gymnastics, has real life friends she plays outside with, etc.

Same here. I think the "no screens" hysteria of the day is a lot like the Dungeons and Dragons hysteria of the 80s, although I think ads are very dangerous to kids and to be avoided if at all possible. I talk about ads with my daughter, and explain to them what their purpose is, and how they're not appropriate to watch just like the scary stuff she doesn't like, and I think she gets it. One of her favorite things to do at 4 was tap "skip ad" and she'd shout it out whenever she found the "X" or link to skip them. I also run a pi-hole-like setup at home, filtering most ads at the DNS level, so we are overall as a family exposed to that abuse far less than unfiltered households.

I hope it doesn't turn south and they figure out how easy it is to use technology to exploit people and get money and then decide to go do that for a job.

For this same reason I like youtube Kids. Its...not as good as the OG youtube app, you cant really search for channels easily and all, but no ads is a godsend!

Oh and of course always be present and watch with the kids. Even the handpicked stuff on youtube is weird at times... or just not weird but spanish and the small ones are brabbling nonsense for the next hours.

Muchos respectos to your approach


Being able to block certain channels / videos is something I want to try out one day, well mainly just Blippi. We watch YouTube with our 3year old and it's near impossible to avoid his videos being suggested to you. While the content itself is fine, I feel like he crosses a line how bluntly he pushes his toys / videos on to his viewers. Along the lines of "go tell your parents, siblings, babysitters to download/ buy my stuff"

I honestly like the concept of YouTube kids, but is there a way to disable the ads for it? I don't have kids. But I see ads for it constantly. You would think google would target their own ads for their services a little better.

YouTube Red/Premium does, but its only available in some countries.

What if exposing them to ads when they are young builds up a tolerance towards ads? I definitely saw ads ever since I was young, but I pay no attention to ads nowadays. Often I don't even realize ads are there, because I seem to filter them out.

On another note, by age 7 you would expect them to be able to launch Age of Empires on their own though.


I'm pretty near your situation (8 and 6yr olds), and do some things similar to you.

Tip: if you want to remove ads/filter internet, it's easy to do on android: install a VPN firewall app and block everything. no more ads.

A criticism however: I think you are letting your nostalgia for the games of your youth impact your decision making here.

What makes 80's/90's games inherently better than the modern options of today? I would actually postulate that they are all equally bad for youths. If you work hard enough, you can find enough edutainment options for kids to satisfy their "screen time" entertainment needs, though I admit it is a lot of work curating content.


That sounds like a great environment!

It seems like a tricky issue for people without the requisite know-how (and most of all, time), though. I worry that in the future, there might be a measurable decline in attention span and cognitive ability among children from poorer households, whose parents, through demands from long hours, lack of education, and lack of access to premium ad-free services, were unable to provide them with such an environment where they are protected from bombardment from technology. What kind of ready-made, low-information consumer level solutions would you consider important to expand here?


I'd be hesitant to give them an internet connected device for entertainment purposes; not when there's great and cheaper alternatives (smartphones / tablets are relatively expensive). I'm thinking a Nintendo console or handheld - I got a new 2DS, it's pretty great. Those new mini models are pretty neat too (nes, snes, playstation is coming out soon, n64 is sure to follow), although I dunno if kids these days would enjoy them as much as we did the original consoles.

TL;DR: Don't let your kids play free games or consume free content. There's always a catch.


> Those new mini models are pretty neat too (nes, snes, playstation is coming out soon, n64 is sure to follow), although I dunno if kids these days would enjoy them as much as we did the original consoles.

My boys are loving Bomberman so much!


Agreed. My kids are allowed to play WiiU and Nintendo Switch, but anything on an iPad or an iPhone is off limits for exactly that reason.

I saw so many scary behaviors appearing that simply do not happen with Nintendo games.


Can you elaborate?

Getting seriously upset if he couldn't get to the iPad. To the point of tears. He knew his "schedule" of exactly how long he had to wait for new things to be unlocked in the game. Clicked every ad that he could to get bonus things. Saw so many of the ad videos that he wanted to download more "free" games.

Eventually he had a few of these going that had timed item releases that if he didn't get to his ipad for every single one of them, it became very upsetting to the point of almost debilitating.

None of this stuff had ever happened with any previous games on the Nintendo consoles we have. We never saw anything like it when he'd watch kid shows on Netflix or family movies.

We ended up taking the iPad away completely one day when he accidentally did something around the house that really hurt his mom...and his only concern was when he could get back on the games. At that point...we were done.

iPad/iPhone games have been entirely gone ever since and after a couple of days when I explained to him what those games were doing to him, he seemed to get it and doesn't even want to play them anymore.

He plays Wii with his sister or friends, watches TV or movies periodically but it's all at a level I would call healthly. There's no addictive behavior to it and if he can't play, he just can't play. It's not a big deal and he finds something else to do. He doesn't choose anything else over family or time with friends.

But every one of those iDevice games seem engineered to get that type of behavior. I'm now extremely wary of any "free" games that are out there, which has been difficult because I've been keeping him away from Fortnite all summer. A lot of the parent stories that I've heard / read from it have made me feel a lot better about the decision though.

At this point, "free" video games connected to the internet are a hard pass at my house.


just a matter of time until they realize all their friend's games are way more entertaining, if they haven't already

tick tock OP


> until they realize all their friend's games are way more entertaining

Either we're not from the same continent/culture (I'm french), or you're completely disconnected from what a 5/7 yo child is doing nowadays.

The ultimate toy in my oldest's school currently is glass balls. Buy him a hand of new colorful glass balls and he'll be the king of the school for the day.

Tablets games? PS4? Fb/youtube? Smartphones? Yes, maybe in 5 years, if even. Right now the oldest's dearest aspiration is to someday be able to go to school alone. And the young one?

At 5yo he's barely a child, what he's looking after is his parents' attention, getting cuddled, and laughing as much as possible.

My sons' friends are just the same.

> tick tock OP

What's your point anyway? Of course they're going to grow, the grow a little bit every day in fact. Actually, I'm not sure you're a parent.


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Seems like your misreading me for some kind of pretentious father who has the answer to everything. Which I'm not, I just made choices. We should stop here.

I allow access to a very limited set of educational apps for a limited duration, less than 20 minutes for my 5 year old daughter.

The apps I choose are usually paid apps that do not have ads in them.

The only other technology I allow is a one on one session programming games in Scratch 3.


my only game playing growing up happened during long vacations on a 386 machine where i had to learn dos, qbasic commands to make anything happen. got me wondering how my computer worked and what else it could do. a grateful inconvenience!

No internet access at 7 years old? That's pretty brutal. The internet was a central part of my childhood, I can't imagine myself without it.

How old are you? What were you doing at 7 on the internet? What do you think a 7yo would do today on current's web?

not a kid expert, but isn't restrictive environment just forces them to inevitable desire to try something that other kids do regularly?

I’m so glad this topic has come up. I have a young child with some apple devices. Apple has a feature where the child can request permission to download an app, I can approve or not. This is great... but it would be awesome if I could approve with “ads off”, I don’t mind taking the $$ hit on install. What infuriates me is finding out 3 days later that my kid is either being distracted non stop to an unplayable level with ads or trading eyeball time to watch in app videos in exchange for some monetary system to be used in game play.

What I can’t stand, when it comes to kids, is when I have to become an expert at X to be able to trust that something is a safe environment for a child. I have to actually check the game, play it, figure out its incentive protocol and then buy the ads away. Some games sell the ads away but still have incentives to purposefully sell your time watching a video to get more points / currency.

Here is what I want. I want a way to trial a game without ads. If I like the game I’ll buy it for $1-$20 just like I would in a physical store. Then it’s my game no ads or weird economic models. If the game maker “needs” recurring money to provide the game play then eat me signup for a subscription like I would on Netflix. I want a straightforward way to own the game or at least use it like I own it (SaaS like)


Yep, the app store really, really needs a section for games that are ad-free and that don't have any consumable in-app-purchases.

Angry Birds was a really nice game, and I'd love to let my kids play it, but it just isn't playable any more. It's so full of crap. Ads, in-app-purchases, loads of shit. I'd easily pay 10€ to get back the original version of Angry Birds that I bought in 2010 or so, but that version is gone for good.

There are some games that aren't full of crap. Monument Valley, Alto's Adventure, Pinout, Blyss, Canabalt, Glider, Paw Patrol, Duplo Trains are some ad-free games that I can recommend.

I'd love to have some kind of curated list of ad-free games. The games that Apple promotes / features in the store are usually less obnoxious, but I'm not sure if there's a way to search for them.

Since Apple has removed the affiliate payments for apps, I don't think there's an easily monetisable way to build a recommendation website for ad-free games, but it may be possible to build it as a volunteer effort?


Perhaps we need to consider if something is wrong about this culture of constant upgrades.

Not just phone apps, but other applications too. Upgrades are actually hostile to the end user. There's nothing to counter the incentives of companies to keep sneaking in more ways to squeeze money out of their users.

Interestingly thinking back, I remember when I first discovered Chrome's aggressive autoupdate and I felt disquieted. Now I have a better sense that it's fundamentally not to the benefit of the end user. Actually there's some benefits for web developers, which tricks them into becoming part of this culture, and heavily pushing for these newer browsers with their built-in autoupdates now.


Problem is, most software upgrades are all-or-nothing. You can’t just take the good (security fixes, better performance, etc.) and leave the bad (reduced functionality, new worse UI, more ads). It’s in my view a major unsolved problem in software.

Amazon's Freetime unlimited store is entirely ad-free apps, and bans in-app purchases, from what I can tell. It's only available on Kindle Fire devices, but it's a good option. (I think a big part of that is that you pay $3/mo for access)

The versions of Angry Birds there are ad-free and in-app-purchase-free.


> The games that Apple promotes / features in the store are usually less obnoxious, but I'm not sure if there's a way to search for them.

It’s not great, but you could look for Apple Design Award winners, which are usually ad-free.


> I'd easily pay 10€ to get back the original version of Angry Birds that I bought in 2010 or so, but that version is gone for good.

You can still find old APKs of it on the internet. I had to use one because the updated game has become unplayably slow on my 2015ish phone.


I think I still have the original Angry Birds game installed on a ~10 year old iPod touch I have laying around. I'll have to make sure to preserve that now, if it's impossible to get older versions of games like that.

Hopefully you've kept that device off the internet. Tyler paid for version I have was updated to gimp the game, so not only do you have beat the previous level you also need a certain amount of coins that do not transfer between levels. You can of course buy them. I tried playing after discovering how terrible Angry Birds 2 was. There away are still unlimited lives and as far as I can tell the other older spin off games haven't had their mechanics changed.

Good point, and I definitely would anyway because I'm sure it's got many unpatched vulnerabilities and issues.

> Angry Birds was a really nice game

IMHO it was a really bad game.

However, to me again, it was a really nice piece of addicting software.


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> Ads are as a result of people not being willing to pay for apps. It's the consumer's fault things are the way they are.

You can't blame one side. Customers would totally pay for apps if no free ones were available, but the moment an app developer releases their product for free, everyone else finds themselves in a huge competitive disadvantage, and have to follow suit. If you want to blame customers for picking the best offers, then also blame producers for making these offers in the first place.

> As is it's already a lottery as to whether you'll make less than minimum wage or equivalent for your time spent developing an app where you've taken a huge risk and foregone a possible $200k per annum job.

If it's such a shitty value proposition, then well, don't do it.

Personally, if the choice is only between no apps and the garbage fest we have now, I say let's axe the entire ecosystem. Or at least change the rules so only three types of applications are allowed: 1) one-time payment, full version, no advertising garbage; 2) subscription-based, full version, no advertising garbage; 3) free forever, no in-app payments or advertising garbage.


I don't think it is that simple. Many people would not pay for games, full stop. Not even if there would be alternative. And they did not paid for games in the past. Note that it was free games that breached to demographics of people who never expected to like games.

And I am personaly in that group. I did paid for some games now, but only after I played a lot for free which allowed be to gain trust and recognize better what I am looking for. As long as all games were paid, I was not playing and had no way to learn about the game before spending money - meaning first few bad games buys me it is not for me and that was it.

Same frankly with games for kids. I bought some, very few, but buying tablet games is something I see as waste of money.


Back in the old days, we had this thing called "demo version". Companies would release a fraction of their product for free, which was enough for players to evaluate whether the full game is worth buying.

I know there's a fraction of people who won't pay for games at all, no matter what. But there's also a fraction of people who will, and currently the companies in the mobile space are not even willing to take money from the latter in pursuit of monetizing the former (through ads, or tricking into payments).

Related, Steam is a living proof that a lot of people are willing to pay for games if the platform cuts out all the bullshit and makes the experience seamless.

> Note that it was free games that breached to demographics of people who never expected to like games.

I'll concede that point; casuals are a good example of that. Still, that's why I included point 3) at the end of my previous comment. There's a place for free content, but it must not be seen as a vehicle for monetization with ads. Leave making free games for people who do it for fun, or for their portfolio - or resurrect the concept of demo versions. Especially in case of causals, there won't be a shortage of content. App store operators could fix this situation by fiat. It would hurt their bottom-line a bit, but it would benefit humanity greatly.


Then the companies found out that releasing demos lowers sales and stopped doing them. Hype and pre-orders and social pressure of "you are not gamer if you don't buy it" earn more. Steam does not have games for me on it or they are hard to find. Disappointment that made me stop buying happened there.

Steam is example of platform that serves one tastes group well predominantly clustered in one demographic. There is nothing wrong with that, obviously, but you can't extrapolate the lesson more widely. Not sure how now, but steam used to be hostile to anything causual or too much tablet like.

I don't understand why games must not be vehicle for ad monetization. I understand need for some regulation, bit later claim, I don't get at all. Why there won't be shortage of content for causuals? There was such shortage for years.

And I don't see benefit for humanity either. However this all develops, the whole topic is largely inconsequential.


> Not sure how now, but steam used to be hostile to anything causual or too much tablet like.

It's more like the users posting on Steam forums who were hostile to casual games (to so called "shovelware").


Intelligent people realise that individuals can't be at fault for making local rational decisions that cause systemic problems.

Apple and Google have caused this problem in the first place by allowing in-app ads and microtransactions to exist. And they are the only ones that can fix it, barring some legislative smack from the EU.

e.g: Apple was misleadingly marking IAP apps as free until they got sued a bit and had a change of heart.


> What do you expect? App developers to work for free?

If I pay for the game, any amount the developer requests, thats the payment for the game and not be shoved down more fucking ads.


Like the OP I paid for a copy of angry birds in 2010 or so. I’d love to let my kids play that version. But auto updates means that version is long gone — and I don’t even have the option of paying more to just turn off the ads

There was a really immersive space game, Galaxy On Fire 2, that got bought by another company. It was like $8 or $9 and suddenly it was full of ads. The only way to play it like the original was with your phone on airplane mode. There are a lot of conveniences with modern apps but malicious updating is really annoying when it happens.

Not pointed at comment at all - parent specifically stated a preference for payment. Frankly I'm not sure who your comment is supposed to target here.

As much as I hate your attitude, you're not wrong. Ads were created to get you thinking about someone's product, and the more you think about it, the more likely you'll purchase it.

> It's the consumer's fault

I'm sure the fault is shared, but we do vote with our wallet. If you don't want the paid version, then suffer the free alternative. But at least there is an alternative, no?


What if there's no paid alternative, because everyone realized that adware and dark patterns are more profitable?

Such is the case every time I see someone say "vote with our wallets". Customers don't get to vote with their wallets, because they can only choose from what's available, not from the space of all imaginable software.


Then they can choose to not use the software.

Unfortunately, too few people care about the various problems with advertisements - not the least of which are privacy concerns - to do that. They'd rather have the software, and [think they] ignore the ads.

This would be reasonable, but I can't help thinking that many - if not most - are not making informed decisions.


The beautiful thing about software is, if they don't like it, they can recreate it themselves. But yes, the incentive to show ads is quite high by the advertisers.

We tried the easy way (pay for the app) and it didn't work, now we do it the hard way (ads).


It’s dreadful. I think Android is worse - though we only have an Android tablet and not an iPad. It’s virtually impossible to find a game for the kids that’s a) not loaded with ads and b) doesn’t want permission to your entire life to install it.

Honestly, it’s rendered our tablet obsolete. On occasions where we try to sit together to find something new for them to play, we all end up giving up because I refuse to let them install what seems to amount to spyware disguised as kids content.

Top tip: Whenever I do let them on devices, I put them into airplane mode. Also, my kids are happy struggling away at The Witness, so that’s kinda a win.


Android is fine, just use emulators :) Even a cheap phone like my Moto G can run everything up to and including N64 games. I'm sporadically replaying Super Mario 64 on my commute.

This problem isn't isolated to kids games though.

Just look at the "fee-to-pay" models employed by many AAA games these days. Game publishers have decided that SaaS-style ongoing revenue is the way to make money, and they will employ such at every turn. Every game has to be a "live service" now, with a bunch of gambling mechanics crammed in to make money on top of the purchase price.


The simplest solution to this problem is simply to buy a Nintendo Switch. You can control exactly which games are installed, and and rely on the fact that they are not exploitative.

For web browsing you can then have a desktop hooked up to a monitor in your living room. You can buy small simple systems that connect to the VESA mount on the back of a monitor.

Its unfortunate that mobile gaming is as it is, but its really up to the platform holders to manage. I think the problem is also that smartphones really don't have a lot of RAM, storage space, or battery life, so any entertainment they provide needs to be in short, high-impact chunks. This encourages the story-lite puzzle games which are precision engineered to be as psychologically manipulative and cash extractive as possible.


The standard switch game price of $60 (admittedly, everything seems to always be on sale) provides some insight into the economics of the free/99cent upfront mobile game revenue extraction model.

Look outside the phone IMO, mobile games are mostly shit - I'm starting to think they're worse even than flash games of old. Get them a Nintendo DS instead, mostly kid-safe games, no ads, restricted or no internet connectivity, oh and the games are so much better.

Flash games were made to be enjoyed. They may have been developed by inexperienced developers but at least they weren't trying to suck money out of you in every way possible.

Android apps that contain ads are clearly labelled in the Google Play Store. The text "Contains Ads" appears right at the top of each listing by the title. There is no such standard in Apple's App Store, and this could easily be remedied by Apple if they cared.

Like others here have already stated, I'm happy to pay for apps. One-off purchase, subscriptions, whatever. I used exclusively Android since the first device (T-Mobile G1) and finally switched to iOS earlier this year, and this has been the biggest obstacle so far. I'd like to install more apps but my phone is pretty much stock since I have no way of knowing whether apps are full of ads.

I am more than a little sceptical of Tim Cook's fiery "data industrial complex" speech last week as he's still not yet ready to take that first baby step and begin warning privacy-conscious users about adware. How do you overlook this as CEO? The other security features on iOS are first-rate, why deliberately overlook adware? I don't get it.


Yes that is definitely good but in practice 80% of apps contain ads (based on a quick check of the top 20 games I just did) and there's no way to search for only apps without ads.

You can do it with Yalp Store [1], it lets you filter apps with/without ads.

[1] https://github.com/yeriomin/YalpStore


It would be amazing if there were an app store or curator where you could filter out shovel by criteria. Filtering out "full of pay-walls" and "abuse of in-game currency" doesn't seem possible in Google Play. There are valid games that have ads and value games that accept IAP.

Too many apps are like that.

What you want sounds a lot more like a normal game console.


Exactly. Buy a Nintendo DS

Yes, Nintendo is a bless in this Game as a service, DLC invoking, in-app world.

Truly becoming special by just staying normal.


Yes. It's infuriating to me that even some Apple's "Games we Love" are packed with ads and predatory buy-coins-to-unlock-things formats.

amazon's 'freetime' for their kindle is close. No games in there have any additional cost or ads. the problem is, finding decent games/books/etc, targeted to your kids age. The search/navigation is pretty hit or miss.

Your comment makes me wish there was a way for parents to curate the appstore for their kids.

There is and I do it. I play the game the first time. If I’m not happy it gets removed.

Kudos to you, wish there was an easier way though!

It's fun playing the games so it's win win ;)

A curated or crowded sourced app directory for ad-free games is a good idea! Would be a great weekend project for someone.

I'm a dev, not sure about a weekend, but I could get an app up in a few weeks for sure. I'm gonna think of this.

Unlike the better parents in this thread, I sometimes let my toddler play an Android game. I can tell you with certainty that every ad in a toddler game is click fraud. He never wants to click the ad. He wants to play the game, but hits the wrong button.

In my book, the fact that Google allows clickable ads in toddler games makes them complicit in ad fraud. And hey, why wouldn't they? It's not like it's "real fraud" right? Right?

(I'm not entirely kidding, I don't understand why other forms of fraud are punishable with prison time but ad fraud is totally a-ok)


Heh, reminds me of an alarm clock app I had in the very early days of Android where the "snooze" button and the ad would periodically swap places, meaning that in my half asleep state I'd be hitting the ad half the time. I'm not surprised that this kind of behaviour is still allowed, I'm sure it's highly lucrative. Also very hard to police.

It's temporarily lucrative for the app developer and probably for the app platform as well.

They're selling the ad space per impression, so more impressions equals more money...until the people buying it figure out their ads are ineffective.

It makes me wonder how someone in the advertising department for these companies hasn't seen their 3-year-old trapped in a cycle clicking on Momma's ad and burning through budget causing some reevaluation of priorities.

Where is all this dumb advertising money coming from?


>(I'm not entirely kidding, I don't understand why other forms of fraud are punishable with prison time but ad fraud is totally a-ok).

It's very simple: no actual fraud in a legal sense has been committed. The person clicking the ad certainly hasn't signed any contract with the ad publisher, so how could they possibly be committing fraud by clicking the ad? The creator of the application showing the ads does not sign a contract guaranteeing to the advertiser that every click is legitimate (how could they possibly enforce, or even measure that), so it's not fraud on their part either.


Actually, usually the creator of the application showing the ads does in fact sign a contract with the ad publisher. They get money in exchange for clicks; if they are obtaining those clicks through subterfuge or dark patterns, they stand at a minimum to not receive their ad revenue, and if it is egregious and done with intent, then there's no reason that it wouldn't be considered fraud.

Measuring and enforcing click fraud is probably the single biggest technical challenge involved in being an ad publisher.

EDIT: For example, Google AdMob: https://support.google.com/admob/answer/48182


If I buy an ad, I expect it to be clicked consciously. Even if that's not explicit, which I think it ought to be, there's an implied contract there that if by pay per click, those clicks are made by people who choose to do so.

There's no difference between having scripts, robots, or toddlers generate fake clicks.


I'm pretty sure toddlers don't have the capacity to commit fraud because no reasonable person would rely on a toddler's representation of material facts to make a decision that could result in injury to themselves.

I think the alleged fraud is on the part of the ad vendor that placed the hard-to-click, tap three times while it makes a synchronous network request, 25% opacity, 10x10px close/skip button on the ad in a game targeted to toddlers, not the toddler.

Have a look at lego games. They are age appropriate and have no ads and really good (plenty of them free). Also, I recommend common sense medit site to learn about which games are good or bad.

Agree,the Lego games are (mostly) great.

Thanks for the tip! Didn't know about common sense media and it's exactly what I was looking for!


> In my book, the fact that Google allows clickable ads in toddler games

In the UK you can report many of those ads to the regulator who can take action.


It's almost impossible to find good educational apps that aren't full of ads, dark UX patterns, in-app purchases, etc etc.

I remember an abundance of educational programs back in the pre-Internet days. Simple Alphabet/Number matching games, click-to-colour-in games, shape identification games, etc. Most came on disks on magazines, or given away free at meetups and events. I expected educational stuff to explode with the internet and smart phones, but instead.. ugh.

We really do need a new category in both app stores. Software for kids that you buy, and then that's it. No ads, no in-app purchases, no trickery or bullshit. It should be curated by an educator and have strict rules. They make more than enough off the app store profits to cover an educator who finds, tests, and adds apps each day to this category and slowly fill it with quality educational apps we can trust with our kids.

They won't though, because they don't actually care. The more they can train kids to be ok with ads and IAP the more profit they'll make later. It's a form of brainwashing.


I recommend the PBS Kids Games app. It has a ton of different educational games and no ads. It's available in the app store and on the website[1]. That's just about the best kids games app I've found.

[1] https://pbskids.org/games/


We're past the social era of computing and everything now is your

"full of ads, dark UX patterns, in-app purchases"

Plus notification spam, siloing your data away from you, weird/illegal financialization schemes, and selling your data.

That's really all there is out there anymore; its not exclusively a kids gaming app problem.


It's also leaking into the non-digital world.

> We really do need a new category in both app stores. Software for kids that you buy

People don't want to pay though, I understand that you want to pay and I want to pay but you have to realize you and me are absolutely the minority.


There were so many good ones in the early Mac days. I loved playing Outnumbered as a kid and it probably my helped me on a path to great comfort and memory for numbers decades later.

> It's almost impossible to find good apps that aren't full of ads, dark UX patterns, in-app purchases, etc etc.

Fixed that for you...


F-Droid has plenty of good apps. It just might lack in specific categories, like educational.

Question: If we sell an education math app that is a free download but limits the numbers (say 1 to 5) but has an in-app purchase to get the full range, is that acceptable?

If buying it then means the transaction between us is over, and I get a fully working app with no ads, no popups asking to buy extra "coins" or anything, and my kid can play that app with no other interruptions or anything I need to be wary of, then yeah that sounds fine. Just sounds like a free trial/demo to me which is fair.

> If buying it then means the transaction between us is over

It should be, but iOS sometimes requires code upgrades which makes me wonder how long a person supports a version of a program on iOS. The whole length of support versus new version is problematic. I would assume version fixes for a number of years. Should be ok for an educational program since the useful lifetime is limited by the nature of the lesson.


> If we sell an education math app that is a free download... (emphasis mine)

Wait, I'm confused here. Are you (hypothetically, yes) selling something or giving away just half of it hoping that you can eventually sell the other half?


Well, seemed a lot more family friendly than Ads. More like giving a taste with the smaller numbers, and seeing if its something that is worth buying.

Oh, like food samples at Costco. Got it.

Yeah, that is about right.

I just don't like the whole concept of ads with children's education. Also, we are trying for a low distraction feel and ads would really make things difficult for some children who really need to have the distractions at minimal.


This really silly. Literally all Android games I've downloaded that are appropriate for my 3 year old are ad free (or very minimal "out of the way" ads for other stuff from the same company). Khan Academy Kids, the PBS Kids app, the Sago Mini games, etc. These are all fine.
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