KFOX14 Investigates: Disturbing ads on kid’s apps

KFOX14 Investigates: Disturbing ads on kid’s apps

A KFOX14 Investigation finds your children may be exposed to sexually suggestive ads, or other inappropriate content, on certain apps in Google play and the Apple app store.

A number of parents have complained about the issue and it's been going on for years.

But one Florida parent said he saw shocking ads while his 5-year-old son was playing an age-appropriate game downloaded from Google Play.

“When I first saw the first image that he was looking at, it was actually two adult women that were completely naked,” said Jon George a Sarasota, Florida, minster and father.

Then George saw another ad that he says was clearly for mature audiences.

"They were actually advertisements that were promoting another app within the app store that had a mature rating,” said George.

We searched Google Play. We found a number of complaints from parents about sexually suggestive ads, or other inappropriate content, tied to free children's apps.

On an app called Paint Easy, there’s a comment from Feb. 4, 2017. "Never an issue until recently with the ads. Last night, one popped up with music blaring, moaning, and a bouncing naked woman."

Another free app called Toilet Training-Baby's Potty. A comment from May 20, 2017: "Do not appreciate adverts for chat lines on a child's app! Very inappropriate."

This app was called Puppy Fire Patrol. A comment posted on Aug. 5, 2016 said, "My son does not need tips to lose belly fat, or to see naked women in your disgusting ads. The developer responded: You can turn the ads off by buying the Pro version, or turning the WiFi off."

The problem isn't limited to Google Play. We found complaints in the Apple App Store about inappropriate ads showing up in some children's apps.

Pam Dixon is the executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a non-profit public interest research group. She saw sexually suggestive ads tied to children's apps. She downloaded them from Apple on an older iPhone.

“It's a really disgusting thing. Kid's apps should be really safe. And the ads are completely inappropriate for children,” said Dixon.

Apple didn't respond to our questions.

The developers who created the apps for Apple or Google Play didn't respond either.

Google tested the apps that we flagged. They didn't find any pornographic material. But, they did find inappropriate ads that violated their policies for their Designed for Families age-appropriate app program.

Google added that they still count on the community of users, developers and partners to flag apps for additional review.

“The only feeling I can describe is being violated. That's how I felt. So naturally, I was angry with that,” said George.

Here's what experts say you can do:

It's very important to report the bad apps to Google and Apple.

Don't just leave comments in the comment section.

Make sure you have the latest browser update.

Turn on safe search.

Buy the paid version of the app. That's because most won't have ads.

Avoid free apps that have a small number of downloads.

Avoid the free apps that have repetitive positive comments -- they might be fake.

You can also test free apps for inappropriate ads by playing them in airplane mode.

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