Parents: There’s a new form of marketing to talk about, that’s not on TV. It’s actually built-in to the new game apps your kids are playing on smartphones and tablets!

  • For example: J&J Snack Foods created a game app called SuperPretzel Factory, which invites kids to make pretzels, while racing against a timer.

  • Another app, called Icee Maker, lets kids customize their own Icee cups and treats, and Kraft has a new app in which kids create their own “macaroni art,” using a virtual box of Kraft Mac-N-Cheese.

What do these new game apps have in common, besides being free and easy to play? Experts are describing them as, quote: “constant commercials” designed to target children. And research shows that the more advertising kids see, the more likely they are to want certain products, and be loyal to certain brands. That’s why the government has regulated marketing to kids. It’s why TV stations can only show a limited number of ads directed at children, for things like toys and candy.

But so far, these new game apps are unregulated! And marketers see them as an easy way to get around the usual limits. After all, a game costs less to make than running a TV commercial. And with a smartphone, kids can play these games any time of day,  even while they’re in school!

Also know this: A new study shows that most 5-year olds know how to use a touchscreen mobile device before they even know how to read! And that’s the age group many of these new games target.

So, who should be responsible for monitoring these games - parents or the government? What do you think? Weigh in at Facebook.com/JohnTesh.