I’m all for letting kids use my iDevices. In fact, I encourage it. There’s a wealth of great educational content for all ages on the App Store, as well as child-friendly games and books. It’s fantastic. Sadly, there is a downside: in-app purchasing. In essence, it’s a good idea. In the past it was a way to give consumers a taster of an app, before upgrading to get all the features of a full program or “premium” version.
Sadly, in the past 12 months, game developers have used this option to introduce a new kind of game. These “freemium” games are initially free to download, but offer a variety of in-app purchases to buy gems/powerups/levels, to enhance the experience or allowing you to develop further within the game. I say sadly, because I genuinely think it’s ruining the App Store and leaving many parents in a sticky situation.
The most recent is the case of Danny Kitchen, a 5 year-old boy from Bristol, UK. His father logged in to iTunes on the iPad to download a free game. Thinking it wouldn’t cost him anything. Ten minutes later, Danny had somehow racked up £1,700 in in-app purchases ($2,550). Once his family found out, they were obviously upset. His siblings “ were telling him off, but of course he didn’t know what he did – he’s only five.”
Thankfully Apple has now refunded the boy’s charges. I can’t ever imagine having one of my children doing this, I think I’d cry. A lot.
Is this just further evidence that Apple needs to change in-app purchasing? Perhaps restricting developers from adding options worth more than a low figure like $20? Give us your thoughts in the comments section or tweet @TiP_Cam.