Prodigy, a popular virtual, interactive math game used for free by millions of students, “aggressively” markets its premium products to children, argues a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission by the campaign for a commercial Free Childhood and 21 other educational and consumer protection organizations was submitted

The company vehemently denies this claim, citing its mission to “have unrestricted access to fun and learn math”

The FTC, which handles consumer complaints about unfair or misleading business practices, can investigate a complaint and sue a company if it determines it is breaking the law

Prodigy has more than 100 million registered users worldwide, according to a recent press release, according to Prodigy’s website, it’s designed for grades 1 through 8 students Anyone with an Internet connection can log in for free access to the game. Many schools incorporate Prodigy into their classes

The school-based version has no ads, but encourages kids to keep playing at home In the home version, students see up to four times as many ads as math questions

, according to the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

These ads promote the “Premium Annual Membership” version of the game, which can cost a little over $ 100 a year if parents pay monthly instead of buying a six-month or annual subscription

“Prodigy wrongly manipulates children into asking their parents for premium membership,” argued the groups, which include the Badass Teachers Association and the Network for Public Education, in part because children who Members are allowed to have access to “coveted virtual items”, including costumes and wizards, even if they play the game at school

“Children can see who has the cool stuff and who doesn’t,” write the groups that creates “two classes of students, those whose families can afford premium membership and those who can’t”

Children with Premium Membership are also allowed to get through the game faster, which makes it seem like they are doing faster at the math

James Bigg, a spokesman for Prodigy, contradicted these claims that the game will inform users from time to time about premium memberships, he said in an email interview so that students and parents would know they exist

But he added, “We strive to do this responsibly and sparingly so that it doesn’t compromise the free gaming experience or the quality of education … We don’t pressure users to upgrade”

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

And about the extras Premium subscribers get? “It goes without saying that subscription-based services offer features that are not available to users of the free service,” said Bigg. But he added, “We purposely made all educational elements available for free”

And he said that without the subscription service, the company would have to put the entire program behind a paywall, which goes against its mission.He also noted that Prodigy doesn’t show any external advertisements or sell or lease user information to others

The groups argue in their complaint that Prodigy’s claim that its product “builds 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 found that Prodigy appeared to have a positive impact on student performance on standardized tests in the sample of students at two schools studied. p>
However, as the groups noted, the Johns Hopkins Report showed a “lack of remedial action and actual teaching” by Prodigy and did not, in their view, substantiate the organization’s “claims to effectiveness”

Bigg countered that the report “overwhelmingly endorsed” the positive impact of Prodigy as a tool for teachers and parents, and said that since the report was published, Prodigy has added new features, including the ability for students to correct their mistakes , Video Classes, and Pointers to Help Kids Understand Questions Better He also noted that 95 percent of Prodigy gamers use the free model

what happens next? It is unclear that the FTC confirmed that it had received the letter of complaint from the CCFC and other groups but was unable to provide further comments. FTC investigations are not public, so the agency generally does not comment on whether it is investigating a particular matter / p>

Prodigy

World News – USA – The popular math prodigy is the subject of a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

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