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4 Ways to Curb Kids' In-App Purchases

Don't get stuck paying for in-app purchases you didn't authorize.
Ingrid Simone Senior Editor, Apps | Mom of two Categories: Cell Phone Parenting
Senior Editor, Apps | Mom of two

After an uproar from parents over their kids' over-the-top in-app purchase bills, Apple added some safeguards with an iOS update back in 2011. And after settling a lawsuit concerning kids' in-app purchases, the company will offer refunds for unauthorized purchases -- you have until April 15, 2015, to submit a claim.

It's not hard to prevent your kids from racking up big bills with in-app purchases on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Here are some pointers:

Turn it off. Use your phone's restrictions to simply turn off the ability to make in-app purchases. Go to Settings, General, Restrictions. Under "Allow," choose "Off" for in-app purchases. Important: Use a restrictions passcode (not the same as the phone's passcode lock) that your kid doesn't know and can't guess. If your child knows the restrictions passcode, he or she can disable the restrictions (kids would still need a password to make an initial app purchase; see below).

Turn off the grace period. Unless you're running a really old version of iOS (and if you are, it's time for an update), you have the option to either require a password immediately for any in-app purchase, or to allow a 15-minute "grace period" during which, after an initial in-app purchase, you can make purchases without re-entering the password for the iTunes account. Require the password immediately. (This setting is also found under restrictions.)

Keep your password a secret. The grace period won't do you much good if your kid knows your iTunes password.

Go with a gift card or an iTunes allowance. Let's say you want to allow your responsible kid to make purchases, but not go wild. Opt to fund the iTunes account with an iTunes gift card instead of a credit card, or set up a monthly allowance in iTunes (go to "Send iTunes Gifts," then "Learn More About Gifting," then "Set Up an Allowance").

About Ingrid Simone

Ingrid joined Common Sense Media in 2010, bringing more than 15 years as an editor and writer, a passion for providing quality content focused on kids, and a love of most things digital. She earned a bachelor’s degree... Read more

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Comments (7)

Adult written by MayMay24babies

Hoping 2 help my 2 adult daughters (each w/2 children 6 yrs., 3 yrs., 2 yrs., & 5 months), My mom (who lives w/my husband & myself), my husband, as well as myself, learn MUCH BETTER ROLE MODEL rules as far as electronic devices are concerned. I am always telling my girls that they never had 2 vie 4 my attention over cell phones, computers, etc. (Not even cable TV & the very worst is the "genie" bc they can watch movies & things at home then tape all their shows they can't get at home & watch all their recorded shows when they come over 2 "visit" daily.) Instead we spent our days discovering the world outside 2gether, making mud pies, feeding & watching squirrels while having a backyard picnic, learning nursery rhymes while they learned 2 help w/family chores by making it fun, like picking up their toys with the 3 minute pickup game, etc. Not by our kids watching UTUBE & learning them while the adults play games on their phone or check their fb messages, & the most important 4 me was just the actual time spent together learning who my children were what their likes & dislikes were, asking them questions about anything & them asking me anything. We would even go out after dark & set on the bench 2 look at the stars, after we all helped with dinner & cleanup, with dad in tow as well & ask family questions, such as; "If U could b any animal, what would U b & why?" Just enjoying our children b4 they were grown & had mates 2 learn who they were. To teach them that although they might b young, they had real ideas, real thoughts, & very real feelings, that mattered 2 their dad & I & they always knew they had our undivided attention when they asked 4 it, bc what they wanted 2 tell us was always important 2 us & we would stop what we were doing & take the time 2 look them in their eyes on the same level as them & not just listen, but reiterate what they were saying or ask questions here & there, just so they knew, 4 a fact, that we were listening & cared about what they had 2 say bc they were individuals with new insights on many things & I can say I have learned many really cool things from listening 2 them. But, in this generation of society that my daughter's are in don't really want 2 hear that now. So, this is a HUGE ISSUE in our family. I truly need an outside source 2 show my daughters that i am not crazy. That the terrible tantrums & meltdowns my grandchildren have are at least partly due 2 all these electronics. I just told my family last week that I was seriously considering having a new rule of "NO electronic devices allowed while at MayMay's house." They would have 2 surrender them at the door in a basket only 2 b picked up when they are leaving except if a phone rings 2 b answered as a house phone then put back. But of course was met with tears then screams then total meltdown from the 6 yr old grandson, & sarcastic laughs from everyone else. PLEASE HELP OUR FAMILY FIND A BALANCE BEFORE MY GRANDCHILDREN ARE PAST THAT POINT OF NO RETURN. HELP ME 2 HELP MY GRANDBABIES GET THE SAME INDIVIDUAL, UNDIVIDED, ATTENTION & TIME NEEDED 2 TEACH THEM WHO THEY ARE, WHAT THEY THINK, BELIEVE, & WANT 2 SHARE W/US ARE WORTH MUCH MORE THAN A PIECE OF METAL W/WIRES & AS MY GRANDSON SAY'S "ALWAYS MESSES UP, LAGS, & DOESN'T LIKE TO PLAY THE GAMES RIGHT W/O FREEZING UP ANYWAY!" AND....MOST IMPORTANTLY 2 BRING THEIR SELF ESTEEM BACK UP 2 WHERE IT NEEDS 2 B, BC THEY HAVE ENOUGH ISSUES IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD THESE DAYS THAT THEY NEED 2 NOE THAT NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS OUT THERE THAT THEY NOE THEY CAN COME HOME 2 FEEL LOVED, IMPORTANT, & EVEN SAFE AGAIN. BC HERE THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL & HERE WON'T EVER CHANGE OR BREAK DOWN! Sorry so long but this really super hits home right now & has been causing so much grief in our home that this MayMay is at a loss of what 2 do next!
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Parent written by TMBLUM

Great read - I'd love to connect more about in-app purchase management. We are developing a solution: a safe, easy-to-use wish list for virtual goods, providing parents and grandparents a way to connect with young gamers. (See: giftinghq .com) Players of mobile/tablet games can add in-game items they want to a list. Family members can gift the selected goods as a way to celebrate, reward good behavior, or simply say “you’re awesome”. We are in the early stages of our development.