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How To Stop Your Kids Accidentally Spending £££s on In-App Purchases!

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One sure fire way to get some peace and quiet as a parent is to give the kids your iPad and let them play games to their hearts are content. However, with computer games companies looking for more and more lucrative ways of generating revenue, this is now a financial mine field for parents as our little ones are tempted by expensive and addictive ‘in-app purchases’. In-app purchases are extra content or features you can buy within the computer games themselves. These could be extra guns in a shoot ’em up game, extra cooking ingredients or faster engines in a car racing game. Both paid for apps and free apps could have in-app purchases.

How Bad Can it Be?

Recently, a family from London discovered their 8-year-old son had spent a colossal £980 on virtual donuts in The Simpsons iPad game ! The little fella had racked up the bill by purchasing donuts within the game over a series of months at around 75p per pop! Another young boy spent £1,700 on virtual ammunition in a game called Zombies vs Ninja. Another case where two sons (ages six and eight) of England international rugby star racked up a colossal £3,200 mobile phone bill playing a game on an iPhone belonging to their dad, in just 3 hours!

The parents didn’t receive any email notifications alerting them to what was going on. This happens more often than you might have thought because not all app stores prompt you to enter a password for future purchases if you've already paid to download an app.

A recent study found that users on average spend 24% more on in-app purchases than for the apps themselves, with the total global sales from in-app purchases for 2017 estimated to be at least US$8 billion. As you can see, in-app purchases are big game nowadays and it’s such a big growth area for gaming companies and users alike, that whole online ‘marketplaces’ have sprung up where you can buy and sell these virtual accessories, often referred to as ‘skins’.

'Skin Gambling'

There is a new trend called ‘skin gambling’ whereby kids can use skins they have bought from online marketplaces to bet on the outcomes of online games via gambling sites. Whilst the gambling industry regulators are trying to crack down on this immoral practice, parents must be careful to ensure our kids aren’t exposed to this kind of gambling temptation at an early age. Especially considering this trend shows no signs of slowing down – estimates indicate that $5 billion in 2016 was spent betting skins on eSports games online .

This isn’t a huge problem but can hurt if you experience it.

How to Prevent it Happening to You

There are 3 simple things we can do to help prevent it ever happening to you;

1. Turn off In-App Purchases!

If you don’t want to allow in-app purchases at all, then simply turn them off! Even if you don’t want to turn them off altogether, most platforms allow you to set spend limits. See below on how to do so for the main platforms;

  • iOS: in the Settings menu General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions > choose a PIN (but mind to make it different to the PIN used to unlock the device as you may have already shared this with your kids!). In the Allowed Content section, turn In-App Purchases off.
  • Android: done via your Google Play account. This is not set by default when you first buy a phone so ensure you do so before handing new devices to the kids!
  • Windows: done in the ‘Kids Corner’ settings menu.
  • Games Consoles: most games consoles actually prohibit under 18s having their own account so you would be in breach of their Terms of Service if one of your kids had a master account to themselves. For example, for a kid to do this on a PlayStation, they would have to have entered an incorrect date of birth at the registration stage. Only with a master account can you add money to your wallet for in-app purchases so always ensure they have a user or delegate account so you hold the purse strings! If you don’t want to cut off in-app purchases altogether, you can usually set spending limits from your master account.

2. Turn on app store purchase notifications.

This will ensure that whenever anything is purchased you get the receipt in an email. If you can see these email receipts building up one after another, you can swoop in quickly to prevent too much spend!

3. Talk to your kids about in-app purchases!

Explain what they are and the impact buying them can have. The vast majority of children who rack up large bills on games and apps did not know that the 'gems' or 'coins' they were buying cost real money.

That was easy! With these three steps implemented, you should never get stung by expensive in-app purchases when your kids are next using your tablet or phone to play games on!

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