FTC Report: Little Progress in Privacy Concerns Surrounding Kids’ Apps
The Federal Trade Commission issued a new staff report, Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade, examining the privacy disclosures and practices of apps offered for children in the Google Play and the Apple App stores. Since FTC staff’s first survey of kids’ mobile apps last year, little progress was found toward giving parents the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it. The report also finds that many of the apps surveyed included interactive features, such as connecting to social media, and sent information from the mobile device to advertising networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents.
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Port Strike Ends at Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has agreed to a new contract ending an eight-day strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to a news release from the Toy Industry Association.
Negotiations had been ongoing since June 2010. A breakdown in negotiations last week led to the closure of 10 of the 14 terminals at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The strike posed a major financial threat to toy companies needing to fill standing and last-minute holiday orders during the crucial fourth quarter shopping season. The TIA sent a letter to the White House and joined as a signatory with nearly 100 other organizations asking President Obama to intervene and take immediate action to facilitate negotiations and help settle the dispute.
The Big Toy Book Hosts Biggest Day of Holiday Play
The Big Toy Book’s holiday toy showcase, the Biggest Day of Holiday Play, took place December 8 at the ultra-chic Yotel, hosting more than 100 bloggers and their children. Participants had the opportunity to visit eight cabin spaces sponsored by various toy companies, including Hasbro, The Bridge Direct, Innovation First, Delta, Poof-Slinky, Play Hut, among many others. Stations exhibiting the hottest holiday toys were set up throughout the Yotel lounge space.
The evening was a winter wonderland of fun activities, holiday treats—hot cocoa for the kids and Hot Toddies for the parents—and of course, toys. Each blogger family left with a swag bag full of hot holiday toys.
The event was originally scheduled for mid-November, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, The Big Toy Book postponed the event and re-imagined it as an opportunity to support those displaced by the storm. The Big Toy Book and many of the event sponsors, as well as many of the blogger families, made monetary and product donations to the non-profit group Kids in Distressed Situations (KIDS). KIDS partnered with multiple agencies to set up two major distribution sites in Queens to assist children affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Ubisoft and Toys “R” Us Release Facebook App
Ubisoft and Toys “R” Us have teamed up to create Toys “R” Us Towers, a free-to-play toy store simulation game with real-world benefits, available now on Facebook. The game will also be available on mobile devices in the coming months.
Created by Ubisoft Quebec, Toys “R” Us Towers gives players the chance to step into the shoes of a Toys “R” Us employee. They will be able to manage their own toy store by building and designing a variety of toy departments and attractions, such as creating a science toy department or even adding a ferris wheel like the 60-foot indoor ride featured in the Toys “R” Us flagship store in Times Square.
By playing Toys “R” Us Towers, fans can receive real-world coupons for discounts redeemable at stores nationwide and on Toysrus.com. Within the first hour of playing the game, users can earn a coupon for 15 percent off their next in-store or online purchase and can continue playing to earn even more savings.
For more information on Toys “R” Us Towers or to play the game, visit apps.facebook.com/toysrustowers.
Genius Brands Developing New TV Series for Kids
Genius Brands International, Inc., developer of the Baby Genius line of products, has started development of an animated TV series for children ages 6 to 9 based on the company’s properties. The series is being developed to offer to broadcasters for the fall 2014 broadcast season.
Suzanne Bolch and John May have been signed to create and write the series. Known throughout the industry as Bloch ’n May, this writer-producer team has worked on hundreds of television episodes in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. Their executive producer credits include Captain Flamingo for YTV/Jetix, Naturally Sadie for Disney/Family Channel, and Our Hero for CBC. They also produced The Screech Owls for Discovery/YTV, The Journey of Allen Strange for Nickelodeon, and Flash Forward for Disney/Family Channel. Their many writing credits include PBS's award-winning The Magic Schoolbus, Disney/Family Channel’s Life with Derek, Nickelodeon/YTV’s Caitlin’s Way, and Fox/YTV’s Stickin’ Around.
Silver Dolphin Books Launches Kids Apps, Acquires Little Critter and Richard Scarry App Rights
Silver Dolphin Books, an imprint of Baker & Taylor Publishing and publisher for children and young readers, is entering the digital app publishing business for children and has acquired the app publishing rights for iconic children’s brands Little Critter and Richard Scarry.
The company plans to release a total of six new innovative apps in the next year for Little Critter, Richard Scarry, and a new intellectual property, Astro B-1.
The new Silver Dolphin Books’ apps are being developed by producer and developer John Sansevere (Little Critter: Where’s My Frog) and are scheduled for release next year, debuting on both iOS and Android platforms.
In the new app, Little Critter: The Trip, slated to launch in January, users will engage with games and activities appropriate for a basic pre-school and early elementary curriculum, including identifying numbers, shapes, colors, patterns, letters and simple words, telling time, and solving simple equations.
The first Richard Scarry’s Busytown’s Busy Kids app, slated for launch in the spring, will let kids navigate through their own Busytown-style adventures. Users will help characters figure out and solve problems.
Astro B-1 is an app for kids that explores the inhabitants of the tiny star Asteroid B-1, just to the left of the North Star and below the Big Dipper. Astro B-1 uses preschool and elementary school curriculums to promote respect and understanding among all children. The first Astro B-1 app is slated for launch in the summer.
Video Game Challenge Announces Partners for National Competition
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media have announced the sponsors and partners for the 2013 National STEM Video Game Challenge. For the third year, the AMD Foundation, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and the Entertainment Software Association are returning as sponsors of the challenge. Joining the group are new partners including the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Hive NYC Learning Network, who will reach out to underserved youth across the country through hands-on game design workshops and other supplemental curriculum activities.
This year’s competition will also unite outreach partners and mentors who will be instrumental in supporting youth and teacher participation, including BrainPop, the PBS Kids Ready to Learn Initiative, Learning Games Network, and Edmodo.
The National STEM Video Game Challenge is a multi-year competition that aims to motivate interest in science and technology learning among youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. Middle and high school students across the country are challenged to create original video games on any subject matter of interest to them, individually or as teams, and to submit their games for the opportunity to win recognition for themselves and their communities. The Challenge was inspired by the Educate to Innovate Campaign, President Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.
The 2013 Challenge will launch in January with a new website that will include game design tools, activities, and resources for students and mentors. More information is available at www.stemchallenge.org.
Walls 360 Launches VeggieTales Wall Graphics
Walls 360, the on-demand wall graphics company, has launched an exclusive on-demand collection of VeggieTales premium, re-positionable wall graphics.
The Walls 360 holiday collection of VeggieTales wall graphics features scenes and characters from the international animated series. The wall graphics are self-adhesive and can be removed and reused up to 200 times without leaving a mark or damaging surfaces. For more information, visit www.Walls360.com/VeggieTales.
Smart Toys and Games Offers Free Online Games
Smart Toys and Games, Inc., is making 12 of its games available free-of-charge on the new website www.SmartGamesLive.com. Smart Toys and Games’ online games include Airport, Anaconda, Anti-Virus, Camouflage, ChickenShuffle, ColorCode, Magic Forest, Pirates, Penguins, Roadblock, Safari, and Titanic. All of these single-player IQ-building puzzle games can be played at the starter, junior, expert, or master level.
Individuals can visit the site to play any of the games in full-screen mode without distracting advertising banners. Players can also sign up for free membership to keep track of scores and build a place in the SmartGamesLive Hall of Fame. In addition, members can become beta-testers for upcoming games.
Cupcake Digital to Create New Animal Planet Apps for Kids
Cupcake Digital, Inc., has partnered with Discovery Communications to create a series of original, deluxe activity apps for preschoolers and kindergarteners under the Animal Planet brand. The first interactive activity app is Animal Planet’s Hide and Seek, featuring images of domestic pets including dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, and turtles. Using the interactive format, children can develop vocabulary skills through various games, puzzles, tracing, and sequencing and sorting activities.
Cupcake Digital has identified a need for tools that help parents prepare their children for new Common Core Curriculum State Standards being adopted in 47 states in the 2013-2014 school year. The common standards are designed to prepare children in grades Kindergarten to 12 for college, careers, and a global economy. The apps will be available on Apple, Amazon, Google Play, and Barnes and Noble platforms.