Best Kids Apps

In-App Purchases and Kids

$118 for a bunch of #@!!% virtual gems? It happened to me
Jamie Pearson. and work as an Freelance writer, a mother of two, and the publisher of two popular-ish websites: Best Kids Apps and Travel Savvy Mom. at BestKidsApps.

Although I support the right of developers to make money, I’ve often told parents of young children how to turn off in-app purchases in order to kid-proof their iTunes accounts.

I never took my own advice though —  I thought my kids were old enough to know better.  Then, yesterday my 9-year-old son accidentally bought a bunch of gems in a free app.  He thought he was just looking at them.  (I hasten to point out that this story has a happy ending.  The only lasting damage was to my pride, not my wallet.)

Here’s the receipt:

Naturally, I sent a note to iTunes support:

My son was exploring a free app called Dragonvale.  He was looking at gems and not realizing he was committing to buy them.  Can you please remove these ridiculous charges, totaling $118.94, from my account?  I could buy real gems for that kind of money.

They replied:

I understand that the purchase of “Trunk of Gems” was unintentional. In five to seven business days, a credit of $118.94, plus any applicable taxes, should be posted to the credit card that appears on the receipt for that purchase.  Please note that this is a one-time exception, as the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions state that all sales are final.

The moral of the story is obviously this:  turn off in-app purchases now.  Here’s how:

1) Tap Settings on your device’s home screen.
2) Tap General.
3) Tap Restrictions.
4) If necessary, tap Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. This passcode will prevent restrictions from being disabled without your permission.
5) Scroll down to the Allowed Content section. Switch the In-App Purchases option to OFF. Enter your Restrictions passcode if prompted.

6 thoughts on “In-App Purchases and Kids

  1. Catherine Fischer says:

    Thanks for that great tip!

  2. Lisa Crooms says:

    This happened to me with both of my kids (one 5 and the other 11). I think games targeted at kids should not be allowed to charge in-app fees. The questions they ask are unclear that a charge will occur (especially for a young child– even a good reader).

  3. Natasha Gold says:

    This happened to me as well. Naturally I was very surprised when I saw an invoice for $90 plus dollars! Now that they are using the ipad as well, I will certainly be changing the settings.

  4. Caro says:

    Happened to me this week, $1100 of in app purchases made by my 8yo. She spent $300 alone on ‘bag’s’ for Modern Girl free app. Of course, I had no clue about ‘In-app purchases option’ and it’s default setting of ‘ON’ ! what a scam. Itunes did refund me the total amount, thankfully.

    My 8yo uses a school math based program,, which has virtual shopping, so she has been used to ‘purchasing’ items online for homework. So kids are used to doing this online for educational purposes and don’t realise that Apps are different. She did not realise that the she was playing with real money purchases on the free App, she did get into trouble though for memorizing my password.

    If I am really honest, I did not realise the potential of this myself, not being a games or App person. I really thought a free app was just that, a cute free game for the kids.

    Made me realise I need to get tech savvy very quickly. All our Apple gadgets are now restricted and all my friends notified.

  5. Herb says:

    I don’t see any reason why my kids should know the password to my iTunes account in the first place, or am I missing something?

  6. A valid point. I believe it happened to me because the kids asked if they could download something (on my phone). I said yes. I was juggling something else at the time (raw chicken, maybe). Then they asked for my password and I gave it to them.

    I actually trust them with my password, especially now that we’ve covered the whole in-app purchase angle.

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