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Weekend Take On: Senseless Parents blame Apple for in-app buying policy

Posted by Bradley Wint on 17/04/2011

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This weekend’s article focuses on how parents can sometimes blame the wrong people for their own shoddy child raising techniques.

Earlier this week, Garen Meguerian of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against Apple that says “the company’s policy for in-app purchases doesn’t go far enough to prevent children from buying currency or points inside apps and games. It turns out that Meguerian’s 9-year old daughter was able to purchase $200 worth of virtual currency through the free iOS games Zombie Cafe, Treasure Story, and City Story. The basis for the suit comes from the fact that users could purchase apps from the App Store and purchase in-game credits with the same password, leading to many children being able to make purchases without even realizing what they did. As a result, many parents including Meguerian suffered having to pay for virtual credit, with some bills running into the thousands.

“These games are highly addictive, designed deliberately so, and tend to compel children playing them to purchase large quantities of game currency, amounting to as much as $100 purchase or more,” the lawsuit reads.

Sadly enough, I believe the parents in such situations are to blame rather than Apple or the game developers themselves. While I do agree with parental control tools, it is still a major responsibility of the parent to check that children are playing games that are safe and would not give out personal information or lead to accidental purchases such as in this case. With Apple having to review hundreds of apps on a daily basis, sometimes features such as the in-game purchase function may get skipped by, because a right minded person would have to think before making such a purchase.

I would have thought that the password feature would have been enough to stop a child from purchasing in-game money, mainly because they should not have had that password in the first place. If they knew it, that would mean apps could be purchased from the App Store itself, which would obviously be the result of a careless slip on the parent(s)’ behalf.

A 9-year old also does not have the right mind of frame to decide whether or not to purchase virtual money from the stores. Most of them simply want more currency to continue their gaming quests, and really don’t understand the value of a real life hard-earned dollar. Of course there are some kids out there who do know how important real money is, but a majority of the latter simply don’t.

As a result, a parent should ALWAYS review the content of games before letting their children play with it. Also, if they know very well that their kids could potentially make real purchases on their cellphones and iPods, then they should change the password or simple ban them from using that device. There are many other gaming systems out there such as the Nintendo Wii, 3Ds and others that are much less prone to such problems. How about getting those for your kids, silly parents?

Parents these days feel the need to throw the blame on other companies for their lack of proper parenting skills, they have come to the conclusion that companies like Apple should set up task forces to review each app at a time in the most detailed fashion possible. Clearly this is not a feasible option, but they won’t understand that.

What parents need to understand is that their little angels are not all that smart as they may think and need guidance all the way till they are maybe 18 years and above. There is a reason why the law doesn’t allow the little ones from entering into contracts, because of something called Incapacity. If you are going to let them play video games, first take the time to check out the game yourself for any possible points of danger and if there are not enough controls to keep them in check, DON’T let them play the games on that device. Also keep a close eye on their gaming activities rather than putting all hope on a parental protection module. Simple as that.

Edit – I’d like to add that the actual incident occurred before Apple instituted the double checkpoint password entry method, however that should be enough of a stopping point because kids should still not know the password at all, and parents should review apps (as highlighted above).

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  • Anonymous

    Good read.

    Parent needs to take responsibility for what their kids are doing, and not place blame on Apple or anyone else.

  • Izekial27

    I think you have missed the point that if a parent enters the password into the app store on behalf of the child, the parents are not aware that the password will not be required for further app store activities for 15 minutes, so if the parent gets the app, then lets the kid play, the kid can buy stuff without a password being needed for the next 15 minutes.

  • https://www.blogtechnical.com Bradley Wint

    And you missed the point of me saying that they should take a thorough check of apps before letting theirs kids play with it. For instance, 5 minutes into a game of Farmville reveals that you need more coins to continue, which would make it an unsuitable game. The same applies. It’s not a game of call of duty here with a long story line.

  • Izekial27

    Apple need to have a user option that allows the user to input a password for every transaction that is charged. That is the real problem, this is not just tied to games, but any apps. A parent could buy a game they DO deem appropriate and a child could go into the app store and buy something different. A lot of iOS games have in-app purchases, some of which are not glaringly obvious until you have the prompt come up on screen.

    You seem to prefer blaming parents completely, and i agree parents should take a certain amount of responsibility, but when apple do not offer the option of having password verification for EVERY single purchase, in-app or not, then apple should face some responsibility.

  • Moonlight

    does no one check the setting any more i mean come on theres an setting that turns in-app buying off

  • https://www.blogtechnical.com Bradley Wint

    Fair enough but I believe one of their recent updates has covered it where they are required to enter the password every time they make a purchase. I could understand the addition suit of having different passwords per type of transaction, but that would be more a security feature rather than parental feature, which kinda is a stretch on the whole situation, since folks should already have their phones locked otherwise. Nonetheless, it seems we always need checks and balances here and there because humans are stupid enough to make mistakes and that some of them try to throw the blame on others rather than take steps of ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    And yes, I have mentioned agreeing that parental control is needed but I am saying people put too much dependency on it rather than being pro-active in their approach to parenting.

  • Ghost Rider

    It really just goes to show how ignorant parents are. Why is a kid even on an apple product? Are they doing business at the age of 9? Get them something that prevents this. A 3DS works just fine

  • Civ000

    I’m pretty sure you now have to re-type the password for in-app purchases every time you try and buy something. So these parents have no one to blame but themselves. Seriously how hard is it to go and check if there are PARENTAL controls on the device?
    Stand up and swollow your pride you inconpentent parents!

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