Mobile device users with an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad are sometimes hit with a surprise on their credit card bill. In-app purchases can occur without warning. Can you imagine receiving a credit card bill for more than $2,000 and realize it was for free apps on your child’s device?
In fact, that is what happened to the parents of a 7-year-old boy in England. They were left to deal with the credit card company after their son unintentionally made a number of in-app purchases. I can relate because the same thing happened to me (my two children own an iPod Touch).
Jack Drager’s parents likely grimaced when they got their credit card bill. Over a 4-day period, their young son charged $2,084 as he was playing the popular, family-friendly game Tap Zoo. It’s a game that allows you to collect virtual animals.
Jack’s parents are better than most. They read the game’s terms and conditions before allowing their son to download. They approved the game because they thought it was free. The app didn’t indicate “there was any cost involved.”
Unfortunately, the free app did charge for exotic animals added to Jack’s zoo collection. Some cost up to $100 each.
Should the blame be placed on Apple for supplying a free app that allows charges to be made or on the parents for not monitoring what their children do? In fact, Apple normally doesn’t take responsibility. In this case, fortunately, Apple refunded the money charged and said it would begin requiring passwords to make purchases as a new policy.
“We are proud to have industry-leading parental controls,” Apple said. “Parents can easily use our parental control settings to restrict app downloading and turn-off in-app purchasing. In addition to a password being required to buy an app on the App Store a re-entry of your password is now required when making an in-app purchase.”
Needless to say, I have also activated these features on my children’s iPod Touches.
In this story, Jack’s parents set a good example. They were vigilant in monitoring. But their story also underscores the importance of follow-up. Had they just reviewed the game with their son, they might have noticed the charge options.
Remember, it’s a parents’ role to be diligent in monitoring what a child does on their mobile device. For a complete list of iPod Touch parental control options, visit NetNanny.com.
Russ Warner is President & CEO of ContentWatch, maker of the top-rated desktop and mobile web filter Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com). He is used as an expert source in the national press on a regular basis and speaks regularly on the topic of Internet Safety. Warner was most recently asked to speak at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on what parents can do to help their children navigate the digital age. Under Warner’s leadership, ContentWatch leads an ongoing Internet safety campaign and has conducted seminars for the local Utah media, the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, and numerous schools.