Smartphone and tablet use among children is higher than ever before, as these devices have become an important source of entertainment and education for kids during the pandemic. However, it’s important for parents to be mindful of what their children are doing with technology, as it can have significant consequences not just for their health but also for their finances.
Mom warns parents of in-app purchases risks after son spends $16K on video game
A Connecticut mother has issued a warning to other parents after her six-year-old son charged an astronomical amount in in-app purchases to her PayPal account while playing his favorite game on an iPad. Jessica Johnson, a resident of Wilton and mother of two, noticed the same charge of $106.34 appearing on her bank statement 12 times in a row in July. In a transaction report shared with “Good Morning America,” there were also lesser charges of $53.16 and several more in the $200 to $600 range.
Johnson contacted her bank and Apple, as well as the video game developer Sega, which owns Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega has not yet responded to “Good Morning America’s” request for comment. Johnson said she received a call from Apple on Tuesday and the company agreed to refund her a portion of the money. “They refunded me back $10,553.86,” she said, adding that she does not know the significance of the dollar amount. Apple confirmed to “Good Morning America” that it was able to provide Johnson with a refund for all the charges the company was able to identify.
In a statement, Apple stressed that its products have tools implemented to help customers protect themselves and their families against unauthorized in-app charges. These tools include parental controls, the ability to set up an Apple ID for each family member, family sharing, and “Ask to Buy,” where kids can send a request to their family organizer to approve or decline a purchase or download. Apple also allows customers to require a password for every purchase or every 15 minutes, or to choose how often they would like to enter a password when making purchases from the App Store and iTunes Store.
Johnson, who had a password set on the iPad that she and her children share, but believes her settings allowed for a one-time password entry, said she didn’t realize there was a setting where the child could continue to make purchases without a password after a certain amount of time. She added that she hopes her experience will serve as a cautionary tale for other parents and encourage them to be aware of the various settings available to protect against unauthorized purchases.
As a mother of young children, Johnson said it was important for other parents to be aware of this type of incident. “It’s unfortunate, because we’re all in a pandemic, we’re all working from home. We are working really hard to keep our kids entertained while getting work done. We’re [sometimes] inclined to say, ‘Here, take the iPad.’ I think, clearly, it backfired in my case,” she said.
Apple said its customers are provided with built-in tools to help parents manage their child’s use of devices and protect against unauthorized in-app charges. These resources include the ability to manage in-app purchases and “Ask to Buy,” keep track of family’s app usage, create app limits, only allow kid-safe apps, and set up downtime for specific times of the day.
“For over a decade, the App Store has proved to be the safest and most trusted place to discover and download apps,” Apple said in its statement. “We understand mistakes can still happen and work with customers to investigate, educate them on the tools available for their protection, and, in this case, provided the customer with a refund.”