Don’t Let the Kids Smurf Your Credit Rating

A friend recently acquired a new house slave in the form of her 11-year old son, who is working off the debt he incurred with in app purchases.  The indentured son racked up a bill of $250.  He claimed ignorance, that he was merely playing a free game, and didn’t realize the extras offered cost real money.  Some may argue his excuse was preposterous, or blame the parents, but more and more reports are emerging that tell the same tale.  Apps aimed at children, some too young to conceive of the value of a dollar, are charging sometimes exorbitant amounts for in app extras, and parents are complaining.

Two free apps are the source of literally thousands of complaints; Fishies by Playmesh, and Smurf’s Village by Capcom.  In Fishies, players raise fish in their aquariums.  They may add decorative items, purchasing them with “pearls.”  Pearls can be slowly earned or purchased for cash.  In the recently released Smurf’s Village, guardians of the village must acquire smurfberries to keep their smurfs happy and healthy.  A wheelbarrow of berries costs $59.99, charged to the iTunes account without requesting the account password.

Whether it’s right or wrong, legal or immoral, there is a simple fix.  First, link the iTunes account to a limited, refillable iTunes gift card, or second, enable the in app purchase restriction setting on the device.  Playmesh mentions this option at the beginning of their description of Fishies, but doesn’t say how.  Here are the steps:

  • Go to “Settings.”
  • Click on “General.”
  • Click on “Restrictions.”
  • Click on “Enable Restrictions.”
  • This will prompt you to choose a 4-digit PIN/password; reenter.
  • Scroll down to “In-App Purchases” and slide to “Off.”

Given the plethora of kid-friendly apps with in app purchase options and iDevices heading up even toddlers’ holiday wish lists, these simple precautions bear repeating.

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