Kids can spend your money - just by using your smartphone - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Kids can spend your money - just by using your smartphone

Children playing on iPad in a doctor's office Children playing on iPad in a doctor's office
Devices where in-app purchases are available Devices where in-app purchases are available
(Toledo News Now) -

Kids are drawn to technology now more than ever before. And, with so many games and videos available on these devices, it's common these days for parents who have them to let their kids play with a phone or a tablet on a fairly regular basis.

But that doesn't mean that children understand what happens with every button they press. And, depending on the app they're in, tapping the wrong screen could end up a costly mistake.

The problem is in-app purchases. So often, when users are inside a game (take Candy Crush for example), little pop-ups will surface during the game, asking the user to make a purchase.

Smiley face

Example of in-app purchase prompt in popular app "Candy Crush"

Usually, these opportunities to buy something allow the player to move forward in the game, and only cost a dollar or two. But that's not always the case.

Back in July, an Oregon toddler inadvertently bought a car on EBay while playing with her parent's cell phone. In Canada, 7 year-old twins accidentally racked up a $3,000 dollar iTunes bill after playing the game Clash of Clans. The twins made an in-app purchase.
Rodney Turner from the Verizon store in Maumee explains how in-app purchases work: "That's a common term used for an app download, however in order to level up, or get to a special character, or to skip past certain levels you may be able to purchase the ability to move faster in the game."
Many times, the opportunities to purchase something pop up automatically, and kids may not realize they're spending real money when they follow the prompt. Kids who don't know the difference and just want to play a game may not realize what's happening and spend before asking.

Turner says that the concept can be hard for a child to understand, so it's important to be proactive.
First, create a password that must be entered before a purchase can be made on a mobile device. Second, protect yourself from in-app purchases by altering the settings on your phone or tablet. Here's how:
For Apple Users
- From the Settings app, tap General
- Scroll down and tap Restrictions
- Tap Enable Restrictions
- Set a passcode
- In allowed content section, slide the In-App Purchases slider to off
For Android Users
- From the Google Play Store app, select Menu
- Then Settings
- Scroll to User Controls and tap the box next to use password to restrict purchases
- Confirm your Google password
- Now your password is required for all in-app purchases
Finally, keep your credit information protected.  And, though it may be inconvenient, never store credit card information online where in-app purchases can be made.  That makes push-button purchases virtually impossible for any little fingers cruising through Candy Crush while you're trying to fold the laundry. And, of course, giving kids a heads up, if they're old enough to understand, could help parents avoid some of these problem purchases.

Copyright 2013 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved. 
Read more about controlling in-app purchases here.


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