How To Control Children Buying Apps On Mobile

By Amanda Paul
on 25 August 2015

Besides a dummy or set of car keys, it seems the next best thing for a parent to give a child to keep them preoccupied would have to be their mobile phone. And I guess, why not? If you have some games on there they know how to play, it can keep them occupied for hours.

Personally, I limit my daughter’s usage to the point where she only sees my phone as somewhere she can ogle at photos of herself and giggle at the little videos I have taken of her. But that’s just me. I don’t want to encourage habits I know will be a nightmare to break down the track.

This is not to mention how many times have you heard stories about mobile phone bills reaching exorbitant levels mainly due to a child adjusting settings or in-app purchases by accident. Gosh, I know I have to watch myself and really read the notifications properly before pressing yes or no to continue. Imagine the mayhem a child could make!

With this in mind, I thought it’d be handy to give a bit of a run down about ways to control in-app purchases.

Be in control of the games chosen – You’re the parent

It’s really important to be aware of exactly what you are downloading as a game for your child to play and what potential charges you could incur. Some apps offer extra purchases for games in a separate pin-protected store – like iTunes, whilst others incorporate the purchases into the game constantly prompting the player to buy more this and that. Other games charge players a one-off fee to download the game rather than have constant in-app purchases. Be aware though that the app stores don’t always segregate games that do have in-app advertising from those that don’t, leaving the player to potentially purchase through the advertiser rather than the app itself.

Use reputable app stores

Be sure you are only downloading apps from reputable app stores as third-party sites can install malware resulting in unknown and unwanted extra charges. Then there’s the nightmare of trying to remove the malware from your device.

Adjust your phone settings

If you’re unsure of what settings to have your phone set to for security purposes, contact your mobile carrier and ask for their advice. They can walk you through adjusting your settings and understanding what happens when you do or do not allow certain actions. Your smartphone or tablet may enable you to disconnect all in-app purchases completely which is a great automated help and allows peace of mind.

Virtual versus real money

Take the opportunity to talk to and educate your kids about virtual money versus real money. When it’s not tangible it can be easy for them to feel like they’re not spending anything and that it doesn’t exist. Maybe associate an in-app purchase with a real deduction in their pocket money to give them a sense of what they’re getting for their money. Or instead of pocket money you could use treats or give a point value to something they enjoy doing perhaps and associate this value with the value of the in-app purchase. Use the app to your advantage.

Set up an alert: Rather than eliminating all access to in-app purchases, you may choose to let the reigns go a little and set up a simple email alert to notify you when a purchase has been made in what app. This will give you the opportunity to discuss spending habits and options with older children before cutting access to in-app purchases altogether.

Use security apps to block accidental purchases

Some websites, apps and games will store your credit card information allowing purchases to be made once a pin number is entered. It’s therefore not completely secure. To get around this you can install a security app like Protector for Android devices, Smart AppLock or Perfect App Protector. These apps password protect multiple apps on your phone and provide multiple security settings and locks on photos, games, videos, etc.

What do you currently have in place to protect your phone or device from racking up unwanted bills from in-app purchases?


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