Keep little children from making unwanted iTunes pruchases

By Mike on 12:04 pm

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Meet the Kitchen family, and their five year old son Danny. Like many families, they have a communal iPad they let their child play with. Dad was kind enough to even download some free games for Danny. He put his password in, grabbed the games, and let his kid go to town. Over the next 15 minutes, the precious little scamp went on a mind boggling shopping spree. To the family's horror, Danny had racked up £1,700  ($2500) on dad's credit card.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending. Apple realized it was a mistake and decided to refund the Kitchens. However, there's a lot of lingering questions. How could this happen, and more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening to you?

The blame obviously lies with the parents themselves. Apple had emailed them an itemized invoice for 70 pounds the next day. They ignored it assuming it was sent in error. In fact it's likely the spree would have continued had the Kitchens' credit card company not called. That's mistake number one. Any charge that you did not make on your credit card should always be cause for alarm. ALWAYS check your receipts. I can't stress this enough.

The second mistake was allowing a five year old unsupervised access to the family computer. Kids are a lot smarter than we adults tend to give them credit for. It's truly amazing how much trouble they can make in such a short time. Especially when you give them the means to buy things when the child has no concept of money.

"Free" games targeted at young children frequently use micro-transactions for in-game items. These items range for $1 all the way up to $100 or more for something as stupid as a "Trunk of Diamonds" in one particular farming simulator. The kid is smart enough to know that more resources make the game easier. What they don't know is these items cost mommy and daddy real, finite money.

Lucky for you, it's very easy to protect yourself from what's happened to the Kitchens and countless others.

1. Never let kids use the computer unsupervised. 
Don't treat it as a babysitting tool. If your child wants to play a game, play it with them. As any parent knows, kids that young can start a world of trouble if you take your eyes off them. For the love of god never share your passwords with your children either. Heck I can remember hacking my dad's user account when I was eight because his password was too obvious.

2. Familiarize yourself with your computer's security and parental controls. 
It's amazing how many people rely on technology to run their lives, but are still technologically illiterate.

In iOS, under the settings tab, go into General and click restrictions  These are your parental controls.  The list labelled "Allowed Content" is what you're interested in. Particularly the two at the bottom. By default, iOS allows in-app purchases and waits 15 minutes before requiring a password to buy and download new content from the App Store. You'll want to set these to OFF and IMMEDIATELY respectively. This will prevent kids from accidentally buying things without your permission.

Turn off "In-App Purchases" and set Require Password to "Immediate" to prevent accidental charges
3. Set up a separate iTunes account for your kids
The biggest problem with iOS is you can't set up separate accounts for different users. HOWEVER, what you can do is set  up multiple iTunes Store accounts which can be used on a single device.

It's very easy and requires about five minutes of your time. Sign out of iTunes on your computer, then hit sign in and select "Create Apple ID". Don't tie a credit card to this account. Just select "none" as your payment method. Now that your kid has their own account, which you will monitor, they cannot download any apps or in-game content that aren't free.

4. Teach your kids the value of money
It's never too early to start teaching your kids the value of a dollar. Get them to do some chores to earn money, or if they like playing games on your iPad, some iTunes gift cards. Let them know that once they spend the value of the card, that money is gone and they'll have to earn another. Not only will this prevent you from financial heartache, it will set them up for a responsible future.

5. When all else fails, don't count on a bailout
The Kitchens got extremely lucky here, in that Apple refunded them. However, they are a business not a charity. Once these incidents start happening too many times, they won't be as forgiving. If you take the above steps to protect yourself, you shouldn't encounter problems. That is unless your kid is Bart Simpson and is smart enough to steal your credit card. But that's a whole different kettle of fish.

BBC News

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