Tag Archives: in-app purchases

How To Manage In-App Purchases in iTunes

By Tracey Dowdy

Every once in awhile you’ll hear a parent-horror story of a child who racked up a college-fund’s worth of charges in the app store before their unsuspecting parent had a chance to intervene.

Sometimes the child isn’t aware that the charges aren’t part of the game, other times they don’t think through the long term consequences of their choices.

A year ago, Mohamed Shugaa’s seven-year-old son racked up almost $6000 in charges upgrading the dinosaurs in his Jurassic World game. His father pleaded with iTunes and was eventually able to get the money back, but it was a tough lesson for both father and son.

The good news is, it’s a lot easier to prevent those charges than it is to get your money back through a dispute with the app store. Apple’s website states:

‘All iOS devices (iPad, iPhone and iPod touch) have built-in parental controls that give parents and guardians the ability to restrict access to content.

‘Parental controls also give parents and guardians the option to turn off functionality such as purchasing from iTunes and the ability to turn off in-app purchases.

‘Our parents’ guide to iTunes details the steps adults can take to make sure younger players have access to the right content. The first thing we recommend is not to share your password.’

In other words, it’s up to you to ensure your child – or anyone else – can’t inadvertently rack up charges without your consent.

Off course the easiest way to avoid running in to trouble is to stick with apps that are free of in-app purchases, but there’s a better way. It’s as easy as talking about what in-app purchases mean, what to look for and making a few simple changes in your settings.

Start with a conversation. Don’t assume your child “knows better” than to rack up charges. Caution them to keep an eye out for words like “expand,” “upgrade” and “enhance” that really translate to “buy.”

Set boundaries. If you choose not to password protect your account, or if you choose to share the password with your child, make sure you’ve established clear boundaries about how much your child can spend and establish what the consequences will be if the rules are broken.

Restrict access. The easiest way to manage in-app purchases is to make it impossible. Go to Settings > General > Restrictions. Under Allow, choose Off for in-app purchases. Voila! No more surprises. Note: Restrictions requires a separate passcode to lock the settings. Use a different passcode than the one you use to unlock your phone.

Require a passcode for every purchase. iTunes offers users the option to require a password immediately or allow a 15-minute grace period for further purchases to be made. Make sure you’ve selected the option to require the passcode every time. A lot can happen in 15 minutes!

Use gift cards or an iTunes allowance. If you’ve determined your child is responsible enough, or if you simply want to teach them the value of a dollar, using iTunes gift cards or providing a monthly allowance through the app store is a great option. Go to Send iTunes Gifts > Learn More About Gifting > Set Up an Allowance.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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.