Gamification Startup Settles Deception Charges With FTC

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Texas-based digital health startup Focus Education has settled a suit with the FTC in which it was charged with making false or unsubstantiated claims related to its flagship product, Jungle Rangers, a video game that it claims will help improve children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and school performance – including children with ADHD. The company has been marketing the game since 2012, and has generated $4.5 million in revenue from sales.

Terms of the settlement are subject to public comment before being finalized but because the company raised significant funds from its marketing and the FTC did not levy any fines within the settlement, it feels like a slap on the wrist. The proposed settlement does not even ban Focus Education from continuing to sell Jungle Rangers, it just mandates that Focus Education must stop marketing its game with false claims about improving cognitive abilities in children, and bars the company from marketing future products with unsubstantiated scientific claims.

There is a 30-day period during which the public can comment on the proposed settlement before it moves on to be confirmed. Despite what seems like a light punishment, Focus Education has yet to take down its objective marketing. The company’s website still claims that its Jungle Ranger game is built using “the most up to date techniques and proven theories being applied in pediatric neuropsychology,” and goes on to claim that “Task based gaming principles improve a child’s performance as they play, and directly stimulates important neural pathways for focus, attention, and concentration.”

While brain training programs have grown in popularity in recent years, the science behind the programs has been openly refuted by neuroscientists. A letter titled “A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community,” published by Stanford University and signed by more than 70 neuroscientists, argues against the scientific merit of brain games, stating that “there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities.”


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