10 Apps for Your Smartwatch

By Chantal Bechervaise

Smartwatches, like smartphones, are technological tools that can help you to be more productive, efficient and get more out of your day. They can also help improve your health by tracking fitness goals. But Smartwatches can do more than send email, answer your phone, and monitor your fitness. The number of apps that are available for smartwatches keeps growing, and whether you are an Apple Watch or Android Wear fan, there are apps out there for all your needs.

Here are 10 smartwatch apps to try out. Some may only be available for Apple Watch or Android Wear, and some are available for both.

Navigation

Citymapper

If you are located in a city that is supported by Citymapper, this is a must-have app. Citymapper provides clear and precise instructions on how to get from place to place using public transportation. There is A to B journey planning, real-time info on all modes of transport (next departures and line status), integration with Uber and Hailo, weather alerts, and everything you need and may not even realize that you need to manage your life in the city.

Platform: Apple Watch, Android Wear
Cost: Free


Sleep

Sleep as Android

sleep250Common alarm clocks ignore your sleep cycles; they wake you on schedule even if you are currently in your deep sleep cycle. Waking up from a deep sleep is unpleasant, it makes you tired and it may negatively affect your productivity during for the day. Sleep as Android is different. It tracks your sleep to find the optimal moment for you to wake up. It will wake you during your light sleep cycle. This app also graphs your sleep and shows you an analysis of your sleep patterns and cycles.

Platform: Android Wear
Cost: Free for a two week trial, then you need to purchase an unlock code for $4.45

Sleep Time

This app is similar to the Android one mentioned above. Sleep Time uses Sleep Lab™ with sleep cycle analysis and provides detailed monthly and weekly graphs and an advanced wake-up optimization algorithm.

Platform: Apple Watch
Cost: Free version or you can upgrade to premium for $4.99 per month


Cooking

Yum-Yum!

yum-yum250Yum-Yum! displays step-by-step instructions for cooking more than 1,000 recipes, all developed by real chefs. The app provides pictures of all the dishes and an advanced shopping list and then guides you step by step through the cooking process. Once you have finished preparing the food, the watch switches into timer mode so you know exactly the right time to serve.

Platform: Apple Watch
Cost: Free (includes in-app purchases)


Entertainment

Shazam

shazam250Shazam is one of the world’s most popular apps and it is available for your Apple Watch too. If you don’t know the name of a song you don’t have to pull out your phone. You can launch the app on your Apple Watch and wave your arm around to find out a song’s title and even the lyrics should you feel the need to sing along!

Platform: Apple Watch
Cost: Free


Productivity Apps

IFTTT (If This Then That)

IFTTT saves time by automating different everyday actions with the use of ‘recipes’. For example, there is a recipe for when you like a photo on Instagram or you can find recipes to control your Nest thermostat. Android Wear users have a channel with recipes specifically designed for smartwatches. (https://ifttt.com/android_wear). IFTTT is available on Apple Watch with Do Button and Do Note apps.

Platform: Apple Watch, Android Wear
Cost: Free

Todoist

I love making lists and staying organized. Todoist is a simple to-do list and task manager. You can bring up any of your lists on your smartwatch and check off items as you go. Perfect for grocery shopping!

Platform: Android Wear
Cost: Free (has in-app purchases)

Workflow

Workflow is your personal automation tool, enabling you to drag and drop any combination of actions to create powerful workflows on your Apple Watch. Workflow includes over 200 actions, including those for Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminders, Safari, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, and iCloud Documents.

Platform: Apple Watch
Cost: $4.99


Games (You won’t be able to put them down because they are attached to your arm!)

Triviacrack

triviacrack250Triviacrack is a streamlined version of Trivial Pursuit. You play against other online opponents or friends and choose trivia questions from 6 different categories. As you answer questions correctly, you collect characters that can be used as little avatars. Once a game starts, it can be played entirely on Apple Watch.

Platform: Apple Watch
Cost: Free

Tetrocrate 3D

This game brings back lots of memories for me. It is a falling brick game that challenges you to drag blocks around, spin them and land them to fill spaces without leaving gaps. When you create a gap free line, it disappears.

Platform: Android Wear
Cost: Free

Do you have other great apps to try for smartwatches? Please leave a comment below with your suggestions.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Take Charge with FiOS Parental Controls

Summer is a great time for teens and tweens to relax and take a break from those school and study routines. But it also leaves them with a lot of time on their hands – time that can be spent surfing the Internet or watching inappropriate TV.  If you don’t want to spend all your time monitoring your kids viewing habits or checking up on their Internet searches, then you need some parental controls that can give you a little peace of mind.

Now I know what a lot of parents think about parental controls: good in theory but not so good in practice. They are either too complicated for most parents to set up, or it’s just too easy for kids to find a workaround. The end result is that most available parental controls are simply ignored and the battle over screen time and inappropriate content continues much as before.

That was pretty much the case in my house until we switched to FiOS Quantum Internet and FiOS Quantum TV. Now, the FiOS Quantum Gateway router gives me the ability to manage Internet access by time and by device. That means my 13 year-old daughter can’t access the Internet on her tablet after 8 pm at night, while my 16 year-old son can keep going until 9 pm. It also means I can switch off Internet access at any time of the day on any device when I feel that the kids have had too much screen time or are not following the rules.

With FiOS TV parental Controls, I can block specific channels or use the age preferences to block content for a particular age group. I can even block access to certain TV widgets, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Best of all, both Internet access and TV parental controls can be managed remotely from my smartphone or tablet using the My FiOS and FiOS Mobile apps. If my babysitter tells me my daughter won’t stop Skyping with her friends, I can cut her off right from my office 10 miles away! Similarly, if I need to relax those TV restrictions so my kids can catch a PG-13 movie, I can do that remotely as well.

I’m a big believer that digital technology needs to be carefully controlled, otherwise it can end up controlling you. FiOS puts me firmly in charge – and makes those endless summer months a time when we can all relax!

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional campaigns for Verizon.

Mobile Payment Options

By Tracey Dowdy

Despite the fact that virtual wallets have been around for a while, we’ve been slow to jump onboard. In fact, according to a study by the Federal Reserve, only 13 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to pay at restaurants or retailers. Why is that? About half of us trust our phones for mobile banking, so why have we been hesitant to take advantage of a mobile wallet?

On the plus side, it’s a simple process. You download an app, enter your credit card information, and when you’re ready to make a purchase, simply open the app and have the cashier scan your device or tap it on the pad.

Experts say mobile payments are safer than a magnetic strip debit or credit card, which holds your name, card number and expiration date encoded on the stripe without protection. Most apps generate a unique bar code for each transaction instead of transmitting your card information, and going one step further, Apple Pay doesn’t even store credit card data. New, more secure debit and credit cards are set to launch in October, but until then virtual wallets seem to be a safer option.

On the downside, you can’t use mobile payment options everywhere. Despite developers best efforts, not every retailer and restaurant can or will accept mobile payments. Of all the options, Google Wallet and Apple Pay are the most widely accepted, but with retailers like Target and Wal-Mart launching their own versions, it appears no one system will be universal.

Here’s a look at some of the major players so you can decide if mobile payments are right for you.

Apple Pay

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus come with an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip embedded in the top of the device as well as an SE (Secure Element) chip that generates a one-use code (a token) for every transaction instead of transmitting your debit or credit card number. The token can’t be used again for subsequent purchases and is only matched to your card by the bank. The iPad Mini and iPad Air 2 also come with Apple Pay but don’t have NFC, so you’ll only be able to use them for in-app purchases.

iPhone 5 and older users will need an Apple Watch to use Apple Pay, since the watch is tethered to the phone and will use your Touch ID to make purchases. The app works in Airplane mode, uses a fingerprint reader for added security and is supported by roughly 300 banks in the U.S. The Apple Pay website reminds us that Apple never sees details of your purchases and provides a complete list of participating banks both in the U.S. and U.K.

Google Wallet

The second major player is Google Wallet, which in theory is similar to Apple Pay but in practice quite different. Using NFC technology, Google Wallet creates a MasterCard number unique to your phone. There’s no credit check and you won’t receive a physical card, only a number. When you pay, the retailer gets that number and the debit or credit card you’ve attached to the account is charged. However, unlike Apple Pay, Google Wallet sees every purchase you make. It also works as a peer-to-peer payment system, allowing you to transfer money to another account.

PayPal

Your favorite one-click, online payment service is also getting into the mobile wallet game. The newest version has customers “check-in” when they enter a store that accepts PayPal payments, which then transmits your account details to the retailer. Cashing out is then as simple as telling the cashier you want to use PayPal. The store simply matches your account to your purchase. As an added plus, the app is available on Android, Apple and Windows Phones.

Android Pay

Google recently announced it will launch Android Pay as a second way to pay with your phone. Instead of opening an app, Android Pay will come with the phone, so payment is as simple as unlocking your phone and holding it near the terminal to complete your purchase; it’s as simple as tap and pay. If the store has a loyalty card, Android Pay will prompt you to use it.

According to Google, Android Pay is more secure as it doesn’t include your actual credit or debit card number with your payment but instead generates a virtual account number, thereby keeping your personal details safe. Android Pay will also make use of the native fingerprint recognition software coming in Android M (the next mobile operating system update), though it should work with NFC-equipped devices with Android 4.3 and above. Once launched, Android Pay will be for tap and pay, and Google Wallet will primarily be for peer-to-peer money transfers.

To paraphrase a quote loosely attributed to Mark Twain: If you don’t like the mobile payment options out there now, just wait six months. Retailers, developers and other major players are constantly working to improve the tools and draw you in. Mobile payment technology is certain to become more user friendly and secure as more consumers get onboard.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Managing Your Work-Life Balance

By Tracey Dowdy:

Finding the perfect work/life balance may seem as impossible to achieve as reaching the summit of Everest and just as fraught with obstacles and frustration. In fact Everest may seem easier, because at least there’s a Sherpa or two to help carry the load!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Finding balance requires foresight, planning and a commitment to maintaining perspective but it’s not beyond your reach. In fact, balance really isn’t even the right word as it implies things are “even” which is a bit absurd. Do you know anyone who has managed to split their personal life and work responsibilities 50/50? Of course not.

It’s not a simple matter of time or attention being split down the middle, more complex than “quality over quantity,” and what that balance looks like for you personally will change over your lifetime.

The first step is to determine what work/life balance looks like for you personally. Does it mean putting in 60 hours Monday to Friday so your weekends are free or is it arranging your schedule to put the kids on the bus and be home when they get off at the end of the day? Maybe it means you work long hours seasonally so you and your partner can travel during the off-season, or maybe you spilt your day so you’re home for dinner every night and then work in your home office after the kids are in bed. It’s different for everyone.

Next, you’ll need to stop and evaluate your priorities. Is doing homework with your kids every night of utmost importance or do you prefer to find a great tutor so you’re free to coach soccer? It’s important to note that individuals who achieve the highest levels of satisfaction with their work/life balance are the ones who involve family members when deciding on their schedules. Your son may not mind that you’re not home to help him do his algebra homework if it means you’ll be on the sideline cheering him on a Saturday morning; likewise, your partner may not mind  dining alone occasionally if it means taking that dream vacation.

personal-success-metrics

Above all, give yourself permission to say no. Being on the PTA or headlining the new account may seem like great opportunities but not if it means throwing the rest of your life into chaos or driving your stress level through the roof. Simply put, set your boundaries and do your best to maintain them.

The next step is to identify any obstacles. Do you have debt that means you need to put in overtime to make your mortgage payment? Maybe you have a family member with health issues that pulls you out of the office and into a hospital. If you run your own business, it starts and ends with you so splitting a shift or asking for help on a big project may not be an option. Take stock of the big picture, do your best to pare down unnecessary commitments even if it’s short term, and again give yourself permission to say no. When you’re stressed and overwhelmed your energy drops, your productivity drops and your blood pressure rises. No-one – not your family, not your friends, not your co-workers – gets the best of you when that happens.

Don’t be blinded by obstacles and miss opportunities. More and more companies are seeing the benefit of offering employees flex-time or the option to work from home. Last summer my friend used up her vacation by taking off every Friday after her partner talked his boss into working 4 ten-hour days instead of 5 eight-hour days. As a result, they had eight long weekends in a row. My office allows me five flex hours a week where I can work from home and I must say those are often my most productive hours of the week as I’m not interrupted by phone calls or questions from co-workers.

Go beyond deciding what makes you happy and look at what makes you truly content. Think long term; “Where do you want to be in 10 years?” and “When do I want to retire?” are important questions but equally important is “What kind of legacy am I leaving my family and friends?” If career is your priority, understand that it can come at a price if you aren’t proactive in your personal relationships. The divorce rate among couples after retirement has doubled in the last 20 years; in fact, one in every four divorces is between couples 50 and older. On the other side is a cautionary tale of not thinking ahead causing your family undue financial stress and working years beyond retirement because you didn’t have a plan.

My final piece of advice is don’t live your life in the future tense  – “Someday we’ll take that vacation” or “Maybe next time I’ll put in the extra hours for my team.” Take the time to celebrate all your victories, personal and professional. Take pride in your work and your family today, whether that means helping your third grader build a pioneer village diorama out of a shoe box and Lego characters or finally landing that big account you’ve been chasing for months. Celebrate your daughter’s hockey team making it to the finals and your promotion at work and you’ll see that finding joy in the day to day helps you find and maintain that elusive balance.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tips for Avoiding Screen Time Fights

By Bonnie Harris, Connective Parenting

Feeling powerless in the face of the digital landscape of your home? Think you need to don your police uniform? The technological tsunami has most parents afraid and holding their children in lock down. But anger and resistance from a parent who has brought digital access into the home is illogical to the child. Actually, simple logic will help.

Fighting over screen time is symptomatic of underlying issues just like any other inappropriate behavior. It signals a problem or miscommunication in the relationship. If you are seen as a controlling parent, and you alone determine the limits on screen time, your children will naturally try to grab every minute they can regardless of how angry you get. As with everything else, if you have a respectful, trusting, open, non-punitive, non-threatening relationship with your kids, you will be able to agree on schedules. It comes down to relationship. A good relationship also means that your children enjoy spending time with you as well as technology.

When any new device enters your home, accompany it with its own set of rules and instructions like anything else you want your children to respect. This is your opportunity for problem-solving and negotiation among family members. Too often families don’t make the effort but instead direct children what not to do after the unwanted behavior happens. When withdrawal of screen/phone privileges becomes the consequence, any hope of coming to agreement is lost. Cooperation does not happen when children fear that what they want most will be taken from them.

Screens are potentially damaging to our children’s brains if not limited. So take the responsibility that is yours and keep young children away from screens altogether, model responsible use yourself, and when devices are introduced, negotiate limits with your child right from the start.

Don’t let screens intimidate you. You are still the parent. It is up to you to provide the environment you want for your children, to model the people you want them to become, to introduce nature and beauty, to stop your busy lives and go out to explore what’s off the grid. It is unrealistic to expect your child to turn off these highly entertaining devices and decide to go outside, especially when you stay in leading your workaholic life or tied to your own devices.

There is not one way to set limits on screen time as it depends on your kids. You can allow a responsible, engaged child more leeway to self-monitor than one who finds his only solace on a screen.

Discuss the how, when, and where conditions around a new phone, device or game. It’s more difficult once problems arise but basically the same:

  • Schedule a time to make decisions. Not on the fly. Scheduling time highlights the importance.
  • If you have absolutes, state them right away, own them as yours. “It is important to me that there is no screen time when there is outstanding homework or chores. Does anyone have any problem with that?”
  • Discuss time. “What do you think is a reasonable amount of time for…?” State what you think and negotiate until you agree.
  • Discuss when and what days. Begin with open discussion, “What makes sense to you?”
  • Discuss gray areas: weekday use, mornings, weekends, etc. If your child is being resistant or bored by this, try, “Here’s what I think should happen. Do you agree? Remember we are staying on this until we agree. This is not about me telling you what to do.”
  • Discuss what’s off limits, i.e. restaurants, short car rides, the dinner table.
  • Write down all agreements. It may or may not be necessary to all sign a contract.
  • Post the agreements until there are no longer questions/your child can self-regulate.
  • Reevaluate after a one-week experiment to access how the agreements are working.
  • Expect reminders and allow a few minutes leeway for agreed on times.

If resistance is high, avoid fighting and wait for the reevaluation. Explain then that you have noticed the agreed on time limit was too hard for your child to follow and a new agreement seems necessary. Your point of view must be that the resistance indicates a problem your child is having rather than your child being the problem. Keep reevaluating until it works.

So many children, especially ones who feel incompetent in school, have finally found success online. When parents criticize that success and threaten to take it away, the cyberworld looks like a far happier place to be. When the home and school environment meets children’s needs, the Internet becomes merely an adjunct entertainment.

Bonnie-Harris-75Bonnie Harris, MS Ed, director of Connective Parenting, has been a child behavior and parenting specialist for twenty-five years. Based on her highly acclaimed books, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live, Bonnie counsels parents via phone and skype, teaches parenting workshops, leads professional trainings and speaks internationally. The mother of two grown children, she lives in New Hampshire where she founded The Parent Guidance Center. To learn more, visit her website at www.bonnieharris.com.

Wednesday, July 22: Summer Entertainment

SUMMER ENTERTAINMENT

#LifeOnFiOS

When: TODAY, Wednesday, July 22, 2015
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Summer is a great time of the year for traveling, picnics and fun at the beach, but it’s also a time when kids get bored and families look for different entertainment options.
Join the #LifeOnFiOS team TODAY at 8 pm ET as we discover how a reliable Internet, fast connection speeds and great programming can make all the difference as we enjoy that summer entertainment experience!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a portable Motorola battery charger or a Kindle Fire HD tablet!
Plus, join special guest @GlenGilmore on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a prize!

(Click here  to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: LifeOnFiOS) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/PFsIX
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#LifeOnFiOS) today between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon.)

5 Gadgets for Your Mobile Lifestyle

By Chantal Bechervaise

When someone says “work-life balance” what is your reaction? To a lot of people, it means making a choice or sacrificing one thing for another. I prefer the term “work-life integration,” as it is not simply picking one area of my life over another but adapting to priorities as they come up and making changes to my daily routine as needed.

Part of my work-life integration involves adopting a mobile lifestyle. I use technology to help me maximize my productivity and to help keep me organized. Technology helps me to focus on what is important in my life, whatever my priority may be at the time. I use technology to help me set and achieve work goals and to monitor and maintain health goals. It also allows me to stay connected to family and friends and enjoy my family time and ‘me’ time too.

I have come across several different tech gadgets that help me with my mobile lifestyle. Below are 5 gadgets that can keep you organized and on-the-go, so that you can focus on whatever is important to you.

Smartphone Power Boost Pen

power-penThis handy little device is more than just a writing implement. It will help keep you topped on for those times when you are about to run out of power but need to make a call or send an email.  The Smartphone Power Boost Pen is a portable backup power source that charges your iPhone, Blackberry or Android smartphone. All you need to do is separate the two halves and connect the universal charging cable, with its built-in Lightning, 30-Pin and Micro USB adapters. It provides 400 mAH, which is enough to charge a completely dead iPhone up to 33 percent battery life. That’s enough to keep you going until you can plug into a regular power source.

Available at: Sharper Image
Cost:
$49.99


Pyle’s 5 in 1 Multifunctional Rocket Torch Flashlight

rocket-torchThis cool tech gadget is a flashlight, Bluetooth speaker, call answer microphone, FM radio, SD card reader and AUX-in jack all wrapped up into one lightweight device. It is perfect for nearly any activity such as camping, traveling or relaxing on the beach. The Rocket Torch is water resistant and weighs less than a pound. A great travel companion wherever you go.

Available at: Pyle
Cost: $44.99


Satechi Smart Travel Router with USB Port

travel-routerThe Satechi Smart Travel Router / Travel Adapter with USB Port adapts to fit into four of the most common plug configurations used around the world and also features four different modes for your wireless networking needs. You can charge two devices at the same time using either an AC power port or a USB power port. This compact adapter is convenient for charging smartphones, laptops, music players, cameras, e-readers, handheld game consoles, tablets, and other devices. It can also be used as a router.

Available at: Amazon
Cost: $39.99 (sale)


Chipolo

chipoloHow much time do you spend each day looking for keys or other important things such as your wallet or purse? Chipolo is a simple to use, Bluetooth-based item finder for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 8.1 Devices. It also has a pre-drilled hole so that you can attach it to your key ring and is small enough to fit inside a wallet. After the initial set-up, the idea is that you are connected 24/7. If the item that the Chipolo is attached to goes out of range from your phone and disconnects, the app will pinpoint the last location on a map. It will also send you a push notification letting you know that your item may be lost. You can also attach the Chipolo to a collar to keep track of pets.

Available at: Chipolo
Cost: from $29.95


Smart watch

Apple unveils new gadgetsWhether you are a fan of the Pebble, Sony, LG, Motorola or Apple Watch, a smart watch is a great addition to your mobile lifestyle.  A smart watch can keep you hands free and is highly customizable. After trying two different models, I cannot imagine being without mine. I can check email notifications and respond with a few simple swipes, all without pulling my phone out of my purse. I also use my smart watch to track health goals, steps, calories burned and sleep patterns. Smart watches are the leaders in wearable technology and will continue to improve and dominate the market.

Available at: Amazon, Apple and others
Cost: Varies but anywhere from $200 and up

Do you have any other tech gadgets to add to the list that help you with your mobile lifestyle?

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Friday, August 7: Making Sense of the Cloud

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, August 7, 2015
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT

‘Making Sense of the Cloud’

Join the VZWBuzz team TODAY at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we chat about Making Sense of the Cloud!
As we increasingly turn to mobile devices for work and entertainment, two issues assume greater importance: storage and security. We look at how cloud-based solutions are helping to address these concerns, and how embracing the cloud can enhance our ever-expanding digital lifestyles!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a Mophie Powerstation Plus 8X portable charger or a LG G4 smartphone!
Join Monica Vila on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a LG G4 smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/Qr6pQ      
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

How To Avoid In-App Purchases on Apple Devices

By Tracey Dowdy

Back in 2013, Paula Marner thought her credit card had been compromised when $3,000 in unexpected charges suddenly appeared on her account. Her 7 year old twins had been playing Clash of Clans and while the game was free, unbeknownst to Marner, the game required in-app purchases. Her boys were frequently prompted to make purchases ranging in price from 99 cents all the way up to $99, so that’s what they did. “That kept coming up consistently and they kept tapping it, because it’s just tap purchase, tap purchase, tap purchase,” said Marner. Before she knew it, the boys had racked up significant charges.

Since then, the FTC has made changes so that it’s harder for children to buy apps and in-app purchases without the consent of parents. In fact, last year Apple Inc. consented to FTC demands and paid $32.5 million in restitution to affected customers.

Whether your kids don’t understand that they’re dealing with actual currency or whether they don’t understand the real world consequences, there are safeguards you can put in place to make sure there are no surprises when next month’s statement arrives.

Restrict their access: Go to: Settings>General> Restrictions. Under Allow, choose Off for in-app purchases. Remember: Restrictions requires a password to lock the settings. It’s not the same as the passcode to unlock your phone and don’t be tempted to use the same password. Above all, don’t tell your kids the password so they can’t bypass your restrictions.

Eliminate the 15 Minute Window: Newer versions of iTunes give users the choice of requiring a password every time there’s a purchase or allowing a 15 minute window after the password has been entered for an in-app purchase before requiring it again. Do yourself a favor, disable the grace period and require it immediately.

Free vs. Paid apps:  There are a lot of great free apps available but sometimes it’s worth going for the paid version. Free apps often require in-app purchases to access certain features and it’s often cheaper in the long run to go for the paid version.

Don’t Add a Credit Card: I learned this trick back when my kids were still using my iTunes account. Instead of using a credit card for purchases, I used gift cards. There’s no risk of going over your spending limit: once your card is out of money, it’s over. Parents also have the option of setting up an allowance for their kids: Go to Send iTunes Gifts> Learn More About Gifting> Set Up an Allowance.

Set Clear Boundaries: It’s not enough to set restrictions in your phone’s settings. Have a conversation with your kids about whether or not you’ll pay for in-app purchases. Let them know there’s a limit to what you’ll spend or tell them it’s part of a monthly allowance.

If charges appear and you’re not sure if they’re from in-app purchases, it’s easy to figure out.

  • In the iTunes store, click on your username.
  • Click Account info – login if prompted
  • Under Purchase History, click See All
  • If the charge is from your most recent order it will be at the top of the screen. If it’s not there, click on Previous Purchases and click the arrow next to the date of the order you want to review.
  • In the Type column, look for In-App Purchase.

If it turns out your child has made an unintentional or unauthorized in-app purchase, you can contact Apple support to request a refund.

Use this link for details on setting restrictions and Parental Controls on your Apple device.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.