Prodigy, a popular virtual and interactive math game used for free by millions of students, “aggressively” markets its high-end products to children, claims Federal Trade complaint Commissioned by the Campaign for a Childless Childhood and 21 other education and consumer protection organizations

The company vehemently disputes this claim, citing its mission to provide “full access to fun and engaging math learning”

The FTC, which deals with consumer complaints about unfair or deceptive business practices, may choose to investigate a complaint and may decide to prosecute a business if it determines it has broken the law

Prodigy has over 100 million registered users worldwide, according to a recent press release It is designed for use by students in grades 1 through 8, and anyone with an internet connection can sign up for free access to the game, according to Prodigy website Many schools are integrating Prodigy into education

The school version does not include ads, although it encourages children to continue playing at home But in the home version, students see up to four times as many ads as they do. math questions, according to the Ad-Free Childhood Campaign

These ads promote the “Premium Yearly Membership” version of the game, which can cost just over $ 100 per year, if parents choose to pay monthly rather than purchase a six-month membership or annual

“Prodigy unfairly manipulates children into asking their parents for a Premium membership,” argued the groups, which also include the Badass Teachers Association and the Network for Public Education. This is in part because children who members have access to “coveted virtual items” including wizard costumes and spells, even when playing the game at school

“Kids can see who has the cool stuff and who doesn’t,” the groups write. This creates “two classes of students, those whose families can afford a premium membership and those who cannot not “

Children with Premium memberships are also allowed to progress faster in the game, making it seem like they are progressing faster in math

James Bigg, a spokesperson for Prodigy, has contradicted these claims The game informs users about premium subscriptions from time to time, he said in an email interview, so that students and parents know they exist

But, he added, “we seek to do this responsibly and sparingly so as not to harm the free gaming experience or the quality of education. … We do not pressure users to put themselves “

The company takes concerns about its practices seriously and would be “happy” to speak directly to the CCFC, he said

What about the extras that premium subscribers get? “It’s only natural that subscription services offer features that are not available to users of the free service,” Bigg said. But he added, “We have intentionally made sure that all educational elements remain available for free.” p>

And he said that without the subscription service, the company would have to put the entire program behind a paywall, which conflicts with its mission. He also noted that Prodigy does not show any outdoor advertising, nor did not sell or rent user information to third parties

In their complaint, the groups say that Prodigy’s claim that its product “strengthens essential math skills” and “improves grades and test scores” is not supported by evidence

In response to this criticism, Bigg referred to a report from Johns Hopkins University which concluded that Prodigy “appears to have a positive association with student performance on standardized tests” among the sample of students from two schools that ‘he examined

But, as the groups noted, the Johns Hopkins report showed a “lack of remediation and real teaching” on Prodigy’s part and, in their view, did not “substantiate” the “Organizational efficiency claims”

Bigg countered that the report was “extremely supportive” of the positive impact of Prodigy as a tool for teachers and parents. And he said that since the report was published, Prodigy has added new features, including giving students a chance to correct their mistakes, video lessons and tips to help kids better understand the issues He also noted that 95% of Prodigy players use the free model

What happens next? It’s unclear The FTC has confirmed receiving the letter of complaint from the CCFC and other groups, but could not comment further The FTC’s investigations are not public, so the agency generally does no comments that she is investigating a particular issue

Prodigy

Global News – US – Popular Interactive Math Game Prodigy Targeted in Federal Trade Commission Complaint

Source: https://www.edweek.org/technology/popular-interactive-math-game-prodigy-is-target-of-complaint-to-federal-trade-commission/2021/02