I bought Mrs Bucko a tablet PC a couple of weeks ago. It's one of those Android things, neither of us have used one before so she's still getting used to it.
I decided to have a look at it last night but I didn't get much further than 'Angry Birds'. It's a pretty pants game if you think about it, certainly no more sophisticated than you average Spectrum or Commodore game. Never the less, it's quite fun and I ended up spending a couple of hours on it. I got to level twelve.
Anyway, that was yesterday. Today I opened the online copy of the Daily Mail and read this:
Apps that cost parents dearly: Children running up huge bills on supposedly free games on phones and tablets
And there's a photo of the Angry Birds game underneath it.
My first thought was. "Oh crap!". Like I said, I know very little about these gadgets, had I fucked up? Had I been spending money playing this game without realising it? Fortunately Mrs Bucko is not the type of person to have entered her cash card details into the machine so that put my mind at rest. At rest enough to read further. You see, I had fallen into the trap of panicking before thinking, something I rarely do.
Children are running up huge bills on supposedly free computer games sold as apps through smartphones and tablets.
Games like Angry Birds, Zombie Takeover, Playmobil Pirates, and Racing Penguin are offered as free downloads on tablets such as Apple’s iPad.
However, once children are playing with them, they are hit with pop up advertisements for so-called ‘In-App Purchases’ – IAPs.
Games like Angry Birds (pictured) are offered as free downloads on tablets such as Apples iPad but children are then bombarded with pop up advertisements for purchases
These might be to purchase coins or extra powers to allow the characters being controlled by the youngsters to go further and deeper into the game.
These payments are taken automatically from the credit cards of the adult owners of the tablet or smartphone via, for example, an iTunes or Google account.
Now I come to think of it, there were a few pop ups between levels but I had just closed them and carried on.
It seems children are running up bills on these apps by choosing to spend money on various advert, upgrades, power pills and what have you.
The only way they can run up these bills is for two things to have happened. The child needs to select the option to make the purchases and an adult has to have set up a payment method.
Now this article implies that only children are playing theses games. I'm an adult and I spent two hours on Angry Birds last night and I bet I did better than any scrot sack, snot gobbler out there!.
Anyway, as an adult I can spot these things when they come up, and click past them with such a practised hand I didn't even know I was doing it. For me to run up a bill on Mrs Buckos Android I would have to be fully aware of what I was doing.
It's different with children. They are not as self aware as adults (should be) so they can easily make purchases and think nothing of it. They may not realise they are spending real money, the thought may not even occur to them.
This is where the government needs to step in and do something. They need to make sure these corporations cannot take advantage of vulnerable children in this way. Something needs to be done. The law needs to be changed.
Nah! Just kidding! This is where parents need to step in and take responsibility for the actions of their offspring. Here's a few ways they could do it.
1) My favourite. Don't give gadgets like these to children who are too young to use them responsibly. Give them a book or a board game instead.
2) If you must give them these gadgets, explain to them how they work. Educate them and set boundaries.
3) Don't add your card details to the machine, and if you need to for your own purposes, disable the card or disable the in app purchase options before you let your kids play with them.
This Android thing is new to me so I don't know how to do option 3. Being technologically savvy I am sure I could work it out fairly quickly. If I was going to let a child use it I would make damn sure I worked it our before doing so. As it happens, I now know exactly how to do it as it's explained in great detail in the DM comments.
This article really isn't worthy of a story, or at least it shouldn't be. It's just a story of parents who have failed in their duties of supervising their bin lids and have paid a price as a result.
These parents are the kind of people who would comment on an article about speed cameras and say that if you don't speed you won't get fined, yet they will complain the Government must do something if their kids spend money on an i-phone app.
This really should not be worthy of news. It's a great example of how society has collectively lost it's sense of responsibility.
I would hope to see lessons learnt by parents from this. We're more likely to see legislation.