In-Game Purchases Cause A Headache For Parents, But Who’s To Blame?
Over the past couple of years, since the insane popularity of free-to-play games, the amount of parental problems with technology has increased tremendously. There’s been many cases where parents are billed outrageous amounts on their credit cards after their children spent money on in-game purchases.
This leads to the question: are in-game purchases, or are the parents the problem?
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In a recent story, a mother of twins was billed approximately $3,000 for purchases that her sons accumulated through in-game purchases. The application in iTunes was free, and this led her to believe that all is well.
Paula Marner, the mother, noted that there was a rule that the children may not download an application without permission. And with the application being free, it seemed to be an easy decision to make.
“Our house rule is never download an app without permission,” said Paula Marner.
However, it wasn’t the initial download causing the problem.
During a trip to England, the two boys were allowed to play the free application on the family’s iPod and iPad devices.
“To make a long story short, it was not fraudulent activity or criminal activity that I thought was happening from the U.K.; it was actually my seven-year-old sons who were playing a game while I was gone called Clash of Clans,” Marner said.
What happened next was the inevitable: the game queried whether or not the player would like to make purchases. And the boys did, repeatedly. The purchases ranged from 99 cents to $99. Purchases through iTunes is easy, however there are ways to get around the issue.
And this begs the question: who is really the one to blame?
Can one blame the parent or should one blame the company for in-game purchases? And if it’s the latter: to what extend? Is it that in-game purchases are too easy to do, or that they cost too much?
Reasonably, I cannot find a way to support the argument that games are in the wrong. I do find in-game purchases annoying, but nothing more than that. Over the years, and in each of the cases where this has happened, it seems to be the fault of the parent in charge. The solution to this problem is very easy: either disable the feature to purchase in settings, or my favourite, do not tell the children know the password to the account.
While the first solution requires that people be somewhat technology literate, the second solution is actually just common sense. Without being able to login and access the account, there will not be any issue. In the particular case above, the children may not download a game without permission, therefore they should not have the password in the first place. To purchase in-game items, one needs to type the password in, therefore that seems to solve both the permission issue and in-game purchases problem at the same time.
And the argument that children may learn the password after seeing it being typed in, well then that’s just pure dishonesty from the child. The parent then has other issues that they need to address, because iTunes application purchases will only be the start.
Again, is it the parents or the developers? I tend to lean to the fault of the parents: a bit more control and these sort of problems will not happen. Because, actually, this just makes everyone look bad. And developers aren’t bad–their practice is annoying, but that’s about it.
Fortunately, Apple refunded Marner the full amount for what was billed. Her approach is not to criticise the developers, but rather to urge parents to learn what they kids are doing. I think Marner has learnt a good lesson–and hopefully others will, too.