Weekend Take On: Senseless Parents blame Apple for in-app buying policy
Posted by Bradley Wint on 17/04/2011
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).