Kids’ in-app spending on Android? Parents didn’t app-rove
Ever hand your smartphone over to your kids? You probably didn’t think it could be a hundred-dollar decision — but for some parents, it was.
Today the FTC announced that Google is settling charges that it allowed kids to spend money in apps without their parent’s permission. The FTC announced a similar settlement with Apple earlier this year.
Google offers thousands of apps for Android users in its Google Play store that are geared toward kids. But what many people didn’t know is that some of those games — including free ones — allow kids to make in-app purchases. In other words, kids can spend real money — charged to their parent’s account — on virtual goods like game currency or virtual fish to feed a virtual polar bear. Items can cost anywhere from 99 cents to $200, and the line between what costs real money and what doesn’t isn’t always clear.
From March 2011 to late 2012, kids using Android apps could simply charge in-app items to the related account, no password needed. After that, Google started asking for a password before the first charge but still didn’t tell parents they were authorizing a purchase, or that entering a password opens up a 30-minute spending window where kids can rack up some serious charges.
As part of the settlement, Google will be contacting customers about how to get a full refund for unauthorized in-app charges by kids, and has agreed to change how it gets permission before kids can make in-app purchases in the future.
What can you do to make sure you’re up on in-app purchases on your devices?
Read about the app before you download it
That includes the store description and user reviews, keeping an eye out for any mention of in-app purchases. You also can look at outside reviews from sources you respect.
Check the password settings on your device
You can check whether your device has settings available to require a password before an in-app charge. If your device is running a recent version of Google Play, you can open the Google Play Store app, click on the “Settings” symbol in the upper left hand corner, and view “User Controls” by scrolling down. To change your password settings, click on “Require Password for Purchases” and choose when a password prompt will appear before purchases.
Play the app with your kids first
What better way to know if an app will allow in-app purchases than to see it for yourself? Talk to your kids about the fact that buying gear and other things in games could cost real money.